Penal­ties can’t keep Ham­lin from win

JGR driver col­lects 33rd ca­reer vic­tory

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS -

Denny Ham­lin twice was slammed with pit-road penal­ties dur­ing Sun­day’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Mon­ster En­ergy NASCAR Cup Se­ries race.

It didn’t mat­ter. Ham­lin and his Joe Gibbs Racing team worked their way back from those penal­ties and went on to win at Texas Mo­tor Speed­way.

The vic­tory was the se­cond of the sea­son for Ham­lin af­ter hav­ing gone win­less for the en­tirety of the 2018 sea­son. His other win this year came in the sea­son-open­ing Day­tona 500.

“A fast car,” Ham­lin said when asked how he over­came the two penal­ties — one for speed­ing on pit road and the other as a re­sult of a crew mem­ber mis­take.

“They gave me a car that was fast enough that I could pass anybody in the field.”

The vic­tory was the 33rd of Ham­lin’s Cup ca­reer and his third at the Texas track.

Clint Bowyer of Ste­wart-Haas Racing fin­ished se­cond, 2.7 sec­onds back. Team­mate Daniel Suarez was third.

“It took a while for our Mus­tang to get good,” said Bowyer, who posted his first podium fin­ish of the sea­son. “This car ... was off, to be hon­est with you, all week­end long. I was pretty ner­vous com­ing into the race. Mike (Bu­garewicz, his crew chief) made some good ad­just­ments.”

Round­ing out the top five were Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing and Jim­mie John­son of Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports.

Kyle Busch ap­peared to be headed for the third three-race sweep week­end of his ca­reer as he was lead­ing with 59 laps to go when he lost con­trol of his car, swiped the wall was forced to pit. He fell off the lead lap as a re­sult and hopes of sweep­ing were swept aside. Busch fin­ished 10th, 11.6 sec­onds back.

“It just busted loose on me and I had to catch it and make sure we didn’t crash,” Busch said. “The loose­ness was still there and then I had to chase it on exit of (Turn) 2 be­hind the 10 (Aric Almirola) and just knocked the fence down.”

For three days in Fort Worth, it ap­peared John­son’s year-long tra­vails would end as his car was fast in all prac­tices on Fri­day and Satur­day and then in qual­i­fy­ing.

The seven-time Texas cham­pion started from the pole in a Cup race for the first time since the 19th race of the 2016 sea­son, and led the first 60 laps, which is the most he’s led in a race since he headed the field for 81 laps at Bris­tol in the spring of 2017. He faded once out of the lead but came back to nab his first top-five fin­ish of the year.

“It’s great to be back in the mix,” John­son said.

“It’s where this team de­serves to be. I hope everybody at Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports is smil­ing big right now . ... It’s a big step for us.”

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