Brooklyn, MI (Sports Network) - After scoring a Sprint Cup Series season-high eight victories in 2010, Denny Hamlin finally won his first race this year by taking Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Hamlin took the lead for the first time with eight laps remaining when drove out of the pits first during a caution. Dale Earnhardt Jr. blew a tire and hit the wall within the final 10 laps to force the fifth and final caution.
After the last restart with five laps remaining around the two-mile Michigan oval, Hamlin pulled away from the field, but Matt Kenseth chased Hamlin down and challenged him for the lead on the last lap.
Hamlin crossed the finish line just 0.3 seconds ahead of Kenseth, who made slight contact with the wall coming out of the final turn.
"I got a bad restart, and Carl [Edwards] pushed me back in there, which was real nice of him," Kenseth said. "I got back to Denny, but I couldn't get around him. We were kind of slow for about 10 laps on most runs, and then it just seemed like we were the best car from 10 until we needed fuel. We just didn't have enough time to get around him. I tried everything I could."
It was Hamlin's 17th career victory in the series, but his first since last November at Texas. The win moved him from 12th to ninth in the point standings, with 11 races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins.
"Everyone knows that we've been strong, but today we didn't look as strong as what we normally do here, but we got it working there at the end," Hamlin said. "This is the point of the season where we really need to start hitting our stride."
Hamlin won at Michigan one year ago and finished second here last August.
His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, led 59 laps during the second-half of the 400-mile race but wound up finishing third. Paul Menard took the fourth spot, followed by Carl Edwards, who won Saturday's Nationwide race at Michigan. Edwards led in the late going before Hamlin took the top position away from him during the last round of pit stops.
Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Brian Vickers completed the top-10. Pole sitter Kurt Busch took the 11th spot.
Greg Biffle led the most laps with 68 but faded in the last 100 laps to finish 15th.
Earnhardt Jr., whose last Sprint Cup victory came at this track three years ago, ended up finishing 21st. His winless streak has now reached 108 races.
Edwards now holds a 20-point lead over Kevin Harvick, who moved up two spots in the rankings after his 14th-place finish. Earnhardt Jr. is 27 points in back of the leader, followed by Kyle Busch (-29) and Jimmie Johnson (-29).
Johnson, the five-time defending series champion, finished one lap behind in 27th. Johnson sustained damage to his front sway bar after he blew a tire and spun around in the opening laps. He was two laps behind for most of the race.
The JGR teams of Hamlin, Busch and Joey Logano, who finished 18th, could be facing penalties later this week after NASCAR officials found illegal oil pans on the No.11 (Hamlin), No.18 (Busch) and No.20 (Logano) cars during opening- day inspection on Friday at Michigan. The teams changed the oil pans before the start of the practice sessions.
06/19 17:41:57 ET