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Cautions break kindly for Hamlin at Michigan

Denny Hamlin admitted that he didn't really have a top three car this year at Michigan - but thanks to some lucky breaks with cautions and a perfect final pit stop, it didn't matter.
Joe Gibbs Racing rebounded from the ignominy of their oil pan component violation on Friday to take first and third place at Michigan, with Denny Hamlin reigniting his season prospects by clinching his first win in 2011 and his 17th Cup career victory in 202 starts - which puts him into the Cup points top ten for the first time since Vegas.

"We were truly dominant one year ago in this race," said Hamlin after winning the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday afternoon. "But today we actually were a little worse. But we got a win. That's very uplifting for me, is to win when you don't necessarily have the best car all day, but you have the car good at the end when it really counts."

It took two lucky breaks with cautions to put Hamlin at the top, the first coming on lap 158 when an accident involving Juan Montoya and Andy Lally brought out yellows in the middle of a pit stop sequence, scrambling the running order and leaving Hamlin in the top four at the restart. Later on, the race had been looking to be coming down to the wire on marginal fuel calls when a clash between Hendrick Motorsports team mates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin ended up with the #88 in the wall from a cut tyre a few laps later. Earnhardt was furious at being demoted to 21st place by the incident.

"If the tables were turned, I'd have been smarter and given him plenty of room," said Dale. "He's older than me, been racing forever, he's forgot more stuff than I'll ever know. But still, I take better care of people [on the track] than that."

"It was an accident. We had an accident," said a bemused Martin, before heading off to explain the situation to Earnhardt after the race. "I had my front wheels cut and I let off the gas, and that's all I could do at that point ... It was my mistake."

Later, Dale was calmer and friendly relations were resumed. "I feel better," he said, adding that "Mark wouldn't lie to me." He went on: "He got tight off the corner – I had the same thing happen to me [earlier.] I can't tell when he's pushing... He was out of the gas, wasn't nothing he could do."

The incident allowed everyone to come in for a final fuel stop, and the #11 crew put Hamlin back out in the lead ahead of Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth with eight laps remaining. Not even a push from team mate Edwards could boost Kenseth past Hamlin in time for the chequered flag.

"I got a bad restart, and Carl pushed me back to clean air, which was real nice of him, and I got back to Denny, but I couldn't get around him," confirmed Kenseth.

Hamlin's JGR team mate Kyle Busch finished in third place despite reporting problems with chest pains and breathing difficulties. "I don't know what it was," he said. "Just a centre chest pain I had early in the race. It was really hard to breathe. Couldn't tell you what it was, I've never felt that before."




Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin crosses the finish line to win the Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway. [Picture Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
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Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, crashes early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Ford EcoBoost Ford, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop Toyota, at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, poses in Victory Lane with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 Toyota No. 1 For Everyone Sales Event Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, races Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton ready for racing at Daytona International Speedway on 14 January 2014. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton in action at Daytona International Speedway on 14 January 2014. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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