On a stormy Sunday turned sunny at Pocono Raceway, Denny Hamlin was the eye of the hurricane.
Hamlin won the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at the 2.5-mile triangular track when an eight-car pileup on the Long Pond straightaway caused a caution that froze the running order on the final lap of a green-white-checkered-flag finish.
As Hamlin drove his car to a celebration in victory lane, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano stopped his Toyota beside the Chevrolet of fourth-place finisher and NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick, climbed from his car and angrily confronted Harvick for spinning him in Turn 3 on Lap 199. It was the caution that forced the race into overtime.
Hamlin's day was far calmer as he drove to his series-leading fourth victory of the year, his fourth win in nine starts at Pocono and the 12th of his career. Polesitter Kyle Busch finished second and trimmed Harvick's lead in the Cup standings to 19 points.
Tony Stewart was third, followed by Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer and AJ Allmendinger completed the top 10 in a race that saw a broad spectrum of pit strategies play into the finishing order.
Before the race, Hamlin wrote a note to himself on the dashboard of his No. 11 Toyota that said, “Conserve.”
“I just knew I had to conserve my car the first half of the race, and we rode about third for most of the race up until the halfway point,” Hamlin said. “Then we turned it up when we needed to, and it was just a great feeling.
“I hated to see that last caution (for Logano's spin)—really got my nerves going.”
“Conserve” not the watchword, however, when Hamlin restarted 15th on Lap 172 of 204 behind 13 cars that had remained on the track under caution and behind Busch, who had beaten him out of the pits.
Hamlin made short work of the traffic in front of him. By the time NASCAR called a caution for debris in Turn 3 on Lap 174, he was eighth. Nine laps after the subsequent restart on Lap 179, Hamlin passed Sam Hornish Jr. for the lead with a strong run off Turn 3.
After Harvick turned Logano to bring out the caution that rattled Hamlin's nerves, the race winner pulled ahead on the final restart on Lap 203 and was comfortably in front when Kasey Kahne's Ford slid into the infield grass, shot back across the track and collided with the Chevy of Mark Martin and the Ford of Greg Biffle.
Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Elliott Sadler also sustained damage in the wreck.
Kahne blamed Richard Petty Motorsports teammate AJ Allmendinger for forcing him off the racetrack.
“I don't know what AJ was doing there,” Kahne said. “I don't ever really talk to him much, but you can bet I'll be talking to him this week.”
Allmendinger took responsibility for the incident.
“I'm not really sure what happened,” Allmendinger said. “Kasey had such a run on me, and I went to defend. By the time I defended, he was in the grass. That's my bad. I feel bad about that—I really do. It is what it is, though.”