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Hamlin steals Kansas win from Truex Jr.

The first of the day's two debris cautions came on lap 132, just before the halfway point of the race. Truex was still in front ahead of Kenseth and Hamlin, while Johnson was back up to fourth ahead of Earnhardt Jr. With Kenseth dropping back, the restart proved to be Johnson's best chance of challenging for the lead as he blasted past Hamlin on lap 156 and then tightened right up on the back of Truex seeking a way past - which Truex made sure simply wasn't there, even when the leaders started to hit slower traffic.

That took the race through to another round of green flag pit stops which did little to change the order at the front which remained Truex ahead of Johnson, Hamlin, Earnhardt and Kenseth. But a couple of laps after the stops had been concluded, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing's Juan Pablo Montoya slapped the wall: it didn't bring out an immediate caution, but debris from the incident forced a yellow on lap 187.

With the caution coming so soon after the most recent round of stops, most the leaders all stayed out on track preferring position to fresh tyres, although Johnson and Greg Biffle were among those to come in. Truex proved the efficacy of his decision to stay out once again immediately pulling out at the front at the restart, soon over a second ahead of the second place man which was now Hamlin once more.

There were no more cautions to come during the race, although Tony Stewart tapped the wall on lap 207 and Jeff Gordon started losing his engine on lap 238, finally getting black flagged by NASCAR before he could blow up and deposit fluids all over the track. Mark Martin's engine also gave up the ghost just a dozen laps form the end of the race, and Kurt Busch also suffered late engine heartbreak in the Phoenix Racing car. Chilly conditions were said to be putting extra strain on the engine units on the demanding Kansas oval.

No cautions meant that the final round of pit stops were another scramble under green: Truex came in on lap 223 with Greg Biffle for their final stops, a lap after Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson had come in. They were in turn a lap longer than Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Sam Hornish Jr. was the last man to come onto pit road ten laps later, which finally handed the race lead back to Truex.

But Truex's tyres suddenly weren't nearly as good on this stint, and when the cloud cover broke and the track suddenly started to enjoy the warmth of the sun for the first time it was Hamlin's car responded better to the changing conditions. Suddenly Truex's peerless form all afternoon evaporated. Hamlin was right on the back of him, and on lap 237 he took the lead.

"Denny was able to get by me, and once he did, the race was over," summed up a dismayed Truex. "To put tyres on and touch the car and all of a sudden the car drives worse than it has all day, it is pretty frustrating."

"I felt like our car lost a lot of grip when the sun came out," admitted Hamlin. "But I guess a lot of guys did when that happened ... In overcast conditions, the cars run a little bit tighter, the grip level's higher in the race car, and it's more of a track-position type race. When the sun's out, the drivers, in my opinion, are more prominent.

"You move around, find the grip, do things in the car to make up for what you don't have. The slicker the conditions are, the better," said Hamlin. "Luckily, we had that run in sunshine ... I felt like all day I was behind the #56, and his car looked so superior to the field," added Hamlin. "I knew that he was driving his heart out as well as I was driving mine."

Hamlin certainly didn't feel that he had it in the bag once he hit the front, either: "Once I got to the lead, I felt like I got a little bit complacent mainly on corner entry, just being careful," he recalled. "But, what got me the lead was driving hard, and so I needed to get back to that, and that's kind of where we were able to stretch it out."




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)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates setting the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field after a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, places his name in the top twelve on The Chase Grid after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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