Denny Hamlin takes Phoenix NASCAR Sprint Cup victory

Denny Hamlin fended off a charging Kevin Harvick while stretching his fuel mileage enough to claim NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Phoenix and the lead in the points standings

Denny Hamlin takes Phoenix NASCAR Sprint Cup victory

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Hamlin led the final 59 laps, jumping up front during a restart following the sixth caution of the day. By then fuel strategies had already came into play as most of the leaders were a few laps short of making it to the finish without stopping again.

Harvick, who led 88 laps - more than any of his rivals - was closing on Hamlin as the lap count faded, while his crew chief voiced his concern over their fuel efficiency. Eventually his car ran dry with less than two laps remaining but the gap to third-placed Greg Biffle allowed him to coast to the finish line still in second place, ahead of the Roush Fenway driver.

Hamlin credited new crew chief Darian Grubb for his first Phoenix win, Grubb joining him for 2012 after winning the title with Tony Stewart last year.

"This is the first chance that me and [Grubb] get to work together in a race situation when he's got to make a lot of adjustments," said Hamlin. "It was moving forward all day. It's still a learning process between me and Darian and communication still has a long way to go.

"But to have the success this early tells me that once we get things on the right path we're going to be pretty good."

Harvick was still happy to come second and vindicate all the personnel changes his Richard Childress Racing team went through over the winter, and admitted even with a bit more fuel to keep his pace up to the finish, he did would not have had enough time, nor speed, to snatch victory away from the JGR driver.

"When you come out of the caution and they say you're nine laps short, you really don't think there's any possibility to make it [to the finish]," said Harvick.

"Our cars were very evenly matched the whole second half of the race. [Hamlin] was a little bit better on the restarts and I was able to scoop by. On the last restart I lost a couple of spots and that was our weak point of the day."

Biffle's third place was his second in less than a week, leading Ford's attack throughout the entire event. Australian Marcos Ambrose was his shadow for most of the final stint but an engine failure 17 laps from the end cut his day short after a promising run.

Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson had been the pacesetter for most of the first half of the race but an unscheduled stop for a vibration lost him track position. He was able to recover eventually, enjoying a close battle for fourth in the end against Penske's Brad Keselowski.

Kyle Busch led 52 laps but did not have the pace to be a threat in the decisive laps, finishing sixth ahead of Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex Jr, who ran a different fuel strategy, leading 39 laps while being out of sequence.

Hendrick Motorsport's Jeff Gordon, polesitter Mark Martin (Waltrip) and JGR's Joey Logano rounded out the top-10 ahead of Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya.

Results - 312 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 2h50m35.000s 2. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 7.315s 3. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 8.176s 4. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 10.152s 5. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 11.324s 6. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 11.654s 7. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 11.909s 8. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 14.892s 9. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 17.812s 10. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 18.920s 11. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 19.434s 12. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 19.682s 13. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 19.996s 14. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 22.377s 15. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet + 22.578s 16. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 24.037s 17. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 25.748s 18. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge + 1 lap 19. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 1 lap 20. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 1 lap 21. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 2 laps 22. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 2 laps 23. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 3 laps 24. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford + 3 laps 25. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 3 laps 26. JJ Yeley Robinson-Blakeney Toyota + 3 laps 27. Brendan Gaughan Childress Chevrolet + 4 laps 28. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 4 laps 29. David Stremme Inception Toyota + 6 laps 30. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 6 laps 31. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 9 laps Did not finish: Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 295 laps Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 291 laps Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 274 laps Landon Cassill BK Toyota 272 laps David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 248 laps Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 212 laps Josh Wise Front Row Ford 110 laps Casey Mears Germain Ford 109 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 62 laps Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 33 laps Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 29 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 8 laps 
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