LONG POND, PA. — Denny Hamlin won his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
The 30-year-old driver from Chesapeake, Va., took the lead from three-time Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish, Jr., and a green-white-checker restart set up by a three-lap-to-go crash between Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano to win the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono Raceway.
Harvick and Logano touched going into Turn 3, causing Logano to spin. Harvick went on to finish fourth, and Logano wound up 13th.
Hamlin’s teammate, pole sitter Kyle Busch, was second and Tony Stewart third.
Harvick was fourth and Jimmie Johnson, apparently back in his old form of coming on strong in the latter stages of a race, was fifth.
A multi-car melee on the backstretch as the field headed for the checkered flag demolished a number of cars, many of which had been contenders. Included were Kasey Kahne, who skidded across the track in front of a wide-open pack sending debris scattering everywhere. Also involved were Greg Biffle, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler and Marcos Ambrose.
Hamlin, who led on numerous occasions throughout the race, appears poised to make a solid run for the championship. The win also gives Hamlin forty bonus points going into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He won earlier this season at Martinsville, Texas and Darlington, and he won one of the two races at the Pocono track last year.
Logano added a few fireworks to the post-race environment when he had some heated words with Harvick.
The weather can be a factor at Pocono because it changes often in the mountain climate. In fact, it was overcast most of Sunday morning before the sun popped out just a few minutes before honorary starter WWE star and action film star John Cena was waiting to wave the green starting flag on the 43-car field.
Five of the sport’s hardest-charging drivers were lined up in the first five starting spots, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle’s brother Kurt, and Kyle’s teammate Denny Hamlin. Two of the sport’s fiercest veterans lined up right behind them, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya.
The field also included sentimental favorite Geoff Bodine, who at 61 was the oldest driver in the field and making his first NASCAR Sprint Cup start since Dover in 2004.
However, Mother Nature postponed the start with a downpour after the cars made several laps under the caution.
After a couple of hours delay while jet dryers blew the track dry, the 200-lap race was underway a few minutes after three o’clock.
Kyle Busch wasted no time getting out front, and Hamlin quickly moved into the No. 2 spot. Bowyer was third, Stewart fourth and Kahne fifth. Hamlin took the lead from Kyle on lap six.
NASCAR threw a competition caution at lap 15 to let teams check tire wear after the heavy rain washed all the rubber off the track. The top 10 when the caution waved were Hamlin, Kahne, Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Gordon, Stewart, Montoya, Burton, Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch.
After the restart, Kyle Busch took the lead again with Hamlin on his bumper. Bowyer was next with Gordon and Montoya behind him. Kenseth, Biffle, Burton, Earnhardt and Harvick rounded out the top 10. Bodine’s run ended on lap 31 with rear gear problems.
On the move at this stage of the race was Johnson, who started 25th. By lap 38, the four-time champion had moved into eighth position. Bowyer also chose lap 38 to make a move, passing Kyle for the lead.
Bowyer maintained his lead during the next round of green flag pit stops and Allmendinger cracked the top 10 for the first time of the day.
At lap 60, it was still Bowyer, followed by Kyle, Hamlin, Gordon, Harvick, Burton, Kahne, Montoya and Allmendinger.
Green flag pit stops started again at lap 78 with leader Bowyer. He was first out and Kyle was right behind him. Montoya was penalized for being too fast on exit.
When all the frontrunners had completed their stops, it was Bowyer, Kyle, Hamlin, Gordon. Harvick, Kahne, Johnson, Burton, Allmendiner and Biffle. Montoya dropped to 17th after his penalty. Earnhardt, who ran up front early in the race, was 13th.
A caution, only the second of the race, fell on lap 98 for debris in the tunnel turn. When the green flag waved at the halfway mark (100 laps), it was Kyle out front but Harvick made a daring move on the inside to make it four abreast going into one. He was leading when they came out of Turn one with Hamlin running second. Kyle was third, followed by Burton, Bowyer, Johnson, Allmendinger, Kahne, Gordon and Logano.