Hamlin picks up first NASCAR Sprint Cup win of 2011
Two days after facing questions about unauthorized auto parts and possible penalties, Denny Hamlin enjoyed a happier kind of scrutiny.
Hamlin raced to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the year, holding off Matt Kenseth on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. The drivers appeared headed for a fuel-mileage finish, but then a late caution enabled them to make pit stops before a frantic closing five-lap sprint.
“Over these last six weeks, I can honestly say we’ve had a chance to win each and every race,” Hamlin said. “For me, if I go about eight weeks without winning, I’m wondering what the heck’s going on.”
Kenseth was the only driver with a shot to catch Hamlin in the final moments. Kenseth tried to go both above and below the leader, but was unable to pass Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota. Hamlin won by 0.281 seconds for his second straight victory in the June race at the track.
Kyle Busch was third, giving Joe Gibbs Racing two of the top three spots after the team was told to change oil pans before Friday’s practice. NASCAR said oil pans from cars driven by Hamlin, Busch and Joey Logano were not submitted for approval before opening day inspection.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st. He has gone 108 races without a victory, and it was his car that hit the wall to cause the fifth and final caution.
Johnson, who entered the race second to Edwards in the standings, dropped three spots to fifth after a 27th-place finish.
In West Allis, Wis., Dario Franchitti took over the lead when Helio Castroneves had a tire problem, then held on to win the IndyCar Series race at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday.
It was the third victory of the season for Franchitti, who stayed out of trouble as two fellow contenders fell by the wayside. Tony Kanaan crashed with 31 laps to go, and Castroneves gave up the lead when he had to make a late extra pit stop to change a tire that was going flat.
Graham Rahal was second, followed by Oriol Servia, Will Power and Danica Patrick.
Castroneves finished ninth.
Robert Hight raced to his fourth Funny Car victory of the season Sunday, breaking the national speed record with a 316.45 mph run in the Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals in Bristol, Tenn.
Hight finished off final-round opponent Jack Beckman with 4.092-second run at 314.90 mph in his Ford Mustang.
Hight’s final-round speed certified his earlier performance of 316.45 as the national record.
Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also won at Bristol Dragway.