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A week ago, Denny Hamlin came away frustrated at not being able to pass Kevin Harvick for the victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. On Sunday, there was no frustration in sight for Hamlin as he held off the field — including Harvick — to win in overtime at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.
“We really fought for it last week and came up just short,” said Hamlin, who finished .2 seconds behind Harvick in Loudon, “but it feels good to kind of redeem ourselves this week and have such a strong car.”
The victory in the Gander Outdoors 400 was the third of the season for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver — the first being in the season-opening Daytona 500 — and the fifth of his career at Pocono.
“Man, we’re on a roll,” said Hamlin, who notched his third-straight top-five finish. “We’re running our best right now. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve just got to keep plugging along.”
It came as virtually all of the contenders for the win had fuel-supply jitters in the overtime session at the big old 2.5-mile triangular Pocono track.
“I was real worried,” Hamlin said about his fuel supply.
The jitters proved unnecessary, as the contenders all had enough fuel to finish the race.
Finishing second, .341 seconds and about three car lengths back, was teammate Erik Jones. A third JGR driver, Martin Truex Jr., finished third.
“It’s probably my least favorite part of racing,” Jones, who is winless in 2019 but logged his third straight podium finish, said of racing in fuel-save mode. “I had a couple of good opportunities on the (flurry of) late-race restarts but ... it’s a bummer.
“We’re close every week. Third, third, second, but we’re right there and we’re doing great building points, but it sure would be nice to knock a win out.”
“Good day overall,” added Truex, who has four victories in 2019. “We were not the fastest car. We were in position there to win it.”
William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports finished fourth, and Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing came home fifth. Harvick was sixth.
There are now five races remaining until the 10-race, 16-driver playoffs begin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 15.
Harvick, who got his first victory of the season last weekend, started from the pole on Sunday and led until pitting under green on Lap 38. He would lead a race-best 63 laps on Sunday.
Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott’s summer of non-fun continued at Pocono, as he blew a tire and crashed hard late in Stage 2 and was knocked out of race. In the seven races since he finished fourth at Pocono on June 2, he has had zero top-10 finishes and five of 20th or worse.
“Rough patch,” Elliott, who has a win and is locked into the playoffs, said of his summer. “Hopefully we can get past it.”
His teammate, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who sits just outside the top 16 in points, finished 15th.
Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Byron, Reed Sorenson, Michael McDowell, Corey LaJoie, Chris Buescher and Johnson all failed pre-race inspection on Sunday and were sent to the rear of the field for the start. In addition, Larson and Elliott were sent to the rear after practice crashes forced them into backup cars.
—Field Level Media