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Hamlin back to winning ways at Phoenix

Harvick continued in front after a round of green flag pit stops but then lost the lead during a quick second visit to pit road under a brief debris caution to Martin Truex Jr., who was trying a different fuel strategy. With the race looking set to come down to fuel conservation - and virtually everybody still on the wrong side of the figures to make it all the way home on their current tank of fuel - Truex Jr. took the opportunity to pit on lap 247 when David Reutimann's car blew an engine and brought out the sixth of the afternoon's seven cautions.

Tony Stewart had already been playing the fuel game, and was using the old trick of turning off the engine as much as possible and coasting around behind the safety car during the caution, but the tactic ended up biting him: when he tried to restart his car, he got nothing. he car coasted to a dead halt and had to be pushed back to pit road by a safety vehicle to have the car re-fired, costing him two laps and ruining any chance he had of a late run to the win.

“I just shut the car off like we did at Daytona and turned it back on, and it never re-fired,” said Stewart, a previous race winner at Phoenix back in November 1999. “That's all I can tell you. I don't know why it didn't re-fire. I honestly don't know. It's not really my department. I just turned the switch back on, and it never re-fired. I don't know why that was, but it definitely cost us a good day.”

The race had barely got underway again when Ryan Newman got tipped into a spin in turn 4 after contact from Carl Edwards. "I'm 99 percent sure Carl Edwards didn't do that on purpose," he said. "I don't consider that a deliberate move by any means."

But that didn't mean that payback wasn't on the cards sometime down the road in 2012. "I trusted him, now he can't trust me because there is a lot to be had and lost, we lost a lot today. I don't know how much he lost, but that's not the point," he said. "We know plenty of times in this sport, what comes around goes around."

Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski led at the restart ahead of Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick, with Marcos Ambrose now in an impressive fifth place. The latest caution laps meant that most cars were expecting to make it to the end assuming there were no green-white-chequered period extending the distance, provided that they didn't have to burn through the fuel excessively in a fight to the flag.

It was Hamlin's first proper stint in the lead after a couple of single laps during pit stops or briefly at restarts. But just as he had demonstrated in Saturday's Nationwide race, Joe Gibbs Racing had delivered him a car with impressive pace in clear air, and now he had the opportunity to control the race from the front he seized it with both hands and jumped away at the restart. It turned out that Hamlin would not give up the top spot again for the remaining 59 laps of the race.

His biggest threat was of course Kevin Harvick, who quickly got past Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle to take up the chase in second place at the green flag. Harvick was able to close to within seven-tenths of a second on Hamlin, but he was being warned over the Richard Childress Racing team radio that he was just shy on fuel and needed to back off if he was to make the finish.

"When you come out of caution [and] they tell you you're nine laps short, you really don't think there's any possibility to make it," he said later. "But a couple cautions and a little bit of saving and a little bit tighter crunch on the numbers, we wound up about a lap short."

On the penultimate lap the #29 started gasping with fuel pressure problems; the push for the lead was over and done with, and now all Harvick could hope for was for enough left in the tank to get across the finish line ahead of Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson. The risk of trying to extend the fuel to the finish hadn't worked out, but Harvick was happy that he'd tried and gone for it.




Related Pictures

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Tony Stewart gets a push to pit road after turning off his engine to save fuel and not being able to refire on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway at Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Denny Hamlin celebrates after snapping a 22-race winless streak in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after taking the win in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Denny Hamlin leads Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle late in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 17, 2014 in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS finished second. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS, qualified sixth Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Harvick is 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell wreck at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose lead the field to a restart at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger leads Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Regan Smith prepares to stand in for Tony Stewart at short notice at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Stewart-Haas vice-president Greg Ziparelli addresses the media at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose lead the field at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose lead the field to the green flag at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 8, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet, drives through the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 1, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, drives in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 1, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

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