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Hamlin steals Kansas win from Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. led for 173 of the 267 lap distance of the STP 400 Cup race on Sunday afternoon at Kansas, but Denny Hamlin got the last laugh at the chequered flag.
This weekend's STP 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway looked to be a lock for Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex Jr. - but just when it seemed like a done deal, Denny Hamlin materialised to deny Truex a famous and much-needed victory in the closing laps.

Much of the race had been run under heavy cloud cover over the 1.5-mile oval, and the gloomy conditions suited Truex down to the ground. By contrast, Hamlin's sudden surge for the lead through turn 4 on lap 237 came just as the sun broke through and just after the final round of green flag pit stops. The combination of warmer weather and new tyres was just the tonic that Hamlin's #11 needed to grasp the race away from the winner-presumptive.

"I don't know what happened with that last set of tyres, they were terrible," said Truex after the race. "I couldn't go at all, was just dead sideways, wrecking. At the end of the run, I was back to being okay again, but by then he had already passed me and clean air is everything."

Polesitter AJ Allmendinger had earlier led the race to the green flag for the first 44 laps, but all the while he was cruising in front with Kevin Harvick there was ominous signs that Truex Jr. was implacably on the move up from sixth place. He'd dispatched Harvick for second by the time the first round of green flag pit stops came up around lap 45, and used the visit to pit lane to leap frog himself into the lead for the first time of the day. Allmendinger got held up by Greg Biffle exiting his pit box, and AJ's challenge ended more terminally soon after with problems with the throttle housing on the Penske #22.

The race proved to be a remarkably smooth affair, a total of three cautions (for 18 laps) the lowest seen at Kansas. Two of those were for debris, while the first of them on lap 53 was for a spin by Truex's MWR team mate Clint Bowyer in turn 4. Clint would be able to resume, but then had his engine finally let go on lap 139 to end his day for good.

"It was just a major bummer, I'm really upset — I just wish it wouldn't have happened here," said Bowyer. "This is the nature of the beast, unfortunately this happens from time to time ... It just wasn't our day. We'll regroup and go back after it in Richmond."

After that caution, Truex led Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Hamlin to the green flag, which was a messy, nail-biting affair after Harvick spun his wheels and Hamlin dived down to go three-wide at the restart. Somehow it managed not to be a major wreck, although Kyle Busch made an impression on the rear quarter panel of Greg Biffle's car in the ensuing bumps.

Truex took off and left Harvick and Kahne tangling over second place. Kahne was the first of three Hendrick cars at the front, with Jimmie Johnson in fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. a strong sixth. The final member of the squad - which was still seeking Hendrick's 200th team Cup series win - was Jeff Gordon in 12th place.

The next round of green flag pit stops just before the century mark, and saw Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick run dry before they could get onto pit road while Jimmie Johnson's crew had an issue with lug nuts. After the pit stops had cycled through, Truex's lead was now up to nine seconds over Denny Hamlin: Hamlin was soon displaced from second spot by Matt Kenseth on lap 116, who tried his best to cut the gap to the leader but made little impression.




Related Pictures

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Martin Truex Jr. charges to the lead during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400 on Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin celebrates his first Kansas Speedway win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday after the STP 400 in Kansas City, Kan. (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, applies the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits along with the rest of the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, races to win with Kyle Larson, driver of the 42 Target Chevrolet SS beside him finishing in eighth place Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win with a burnout Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by his Hendrik Motor Sports teammates Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Toughbook Chevrolet SS (left), Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS (center) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS (right) after his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne joins Gordon, Johnson, and Earnhardt Jr. in the Chase. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase.  (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 31, 2014 in Bowmanville, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, races Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ford, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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