Hamlin Holds on in Phoenix

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin scored his 18th career Sprint Cup Series win. (Photo: Getty Images)


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Denny Hamlin held off a hard charging Kevin Harvick, who ran out of fuel on the last lap, to win Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Hamlin scored his 18th career Sprint Cup Series win and first with new crew chief Darian Grubb in Sunday’s second race of the season.

“This is the first chance that me and him have to work together in a race situation where he's going to have to make a lot of adjustments, and needless to say, it was going forward the entire day,” Hamlin said. “It's still a learning process between me and Darian.

Denny Hamlin“The communication has still got a long way to go, and he's going to have to figure out my measurements and all that stuff of how much he needs to work on the car. But to have the success this early just tells me that once we get things down pat, it's going to be pretty good.”

The victory also provided a bit of redemption for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver who had his 2010 championship hopes disappear at the track in the second to last race of the season with a fuel mileage miscalculation.

“I guess you could say it is a little bit of vindication, but I really don't think that way. I try to just think the high road all the time,” Hamlin said. “I feel like I came into a very good situation. Mike Ford built one heck of a team here with the 11 car, and the FedEx Toyota is obviously really strong, Joe Gibbs organization is very strong.”

Hamlin led the final 59 laps of Sunday’s 312 circuit event around the one-mile oval.

“It was an amazing job by this team,” Hamlin said. “They just kept working on it and every time they worked on it, it got better.”

Harvick was able to hang on for second place despite running out of fuel.

“We were really nervous when we came here about how we were going to run,” Harvick said. “I’m proud of all my guys to come to a place where we struggled so bad and raced for a win today.”

Greg Biffle made it to consecutive third-place finishes to start the season trailing Hamlin and Harvick across the finish line.

“I'm feeling really good,” said Biffle. “I've got all new guys. I've got guys working really hard on the car, crew chief and team, and a guy that's really, really smart paying attention to all the fine details, and that's Matt Puccia, and that's the reason why we got two third-place finishes is because of his leadership and his decision making on pit road on what to do to the car.”

Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski rounded out the first five.

Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Joey Logano completed the top 10 finishers.

A number of drivers who were considered pre-race favorites experienced problems including defending series champion Tony Stewart.

Tony StewartStewart shut his engine off during a late race caution trying to conserve fuel, a common practice used by many drivers and teams. However, he wasn’t able to re-fire his motor apparently caused by the new electronic fuel injection systems being used in the Sprint Cup Series this season.

“I mean, I just shut the car off like we did at Daytona and turned it back on and it never re-fired,” said Stewart, who finished 22nd. “That’s all I can tell you. I don’t know why it didn’t re-fire. I honestly don’t know. It’s not really my department. I just turned the switch back on and it never re-fired. I don’t know why that was; but it definitely cost us a good day.”

Last November’s Phoenix winner Kasey Kahne was knocked out of contention early for a repeat victory when he smacked the wall on the frontstretch, heavily damaging his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

There were 25 leads changes among 14 drivers in Sunday’s race, which saw a sell-out crowd in attendance.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400.

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