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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]
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Taxslayer.com Chevrolet, signs autographs for fans during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #18 ARRIS Toyota, lead the field on the first lap of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Crest Chevrolet, during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Crest Chevrolet, races to the finish line to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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