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Kickin The Tires

Denny Hamlin loses out in late Pocono duel with Kevin Harvick

Photo by Nigel Kinrade Photography

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

It came down to two of the sport’s most winningest active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series Saturday at Pocono Raceway. Leader Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who got within two car lengths of the No. 4 Ford as the two battled for the checkered flag.

After more than 10 laps of hunting Harvick down, Hamlin didn’t have enough in the chassis to achieve the overtake toward victory. The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had to settle for second.

“I don’t know if more time would have helped,” Hamlin said. “We just did all we could to run him (Kevin Harvick) down and that’s all we had.”

Suffering from a mystery vibration in the closing laps, Hamlin felt it cost him some precious time in the battle.

“It was bad, it was like someone loosened all the nuts on the car,” he said.

Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota was found to have one lug nut not safely secured during postrace inspection.

“It was unfortunate,” he continued. “We got there and we came there from a long way back and had a strong FedEx Camry. With about 15 or 20 (laps) to go, the vibration just got really, really bad and still would have been tough to pass him. That kind of hampered our efforts coming to the front there.

“Even though we got there, it was going to be tough to get around him. Our car was extremely, extremely fast. Optimistic for tomorrow’s race for sure.”

Catching lapped traffic at opportune times nearly gave Hamlin a chance to get to Harvick’s rear bumper. However, a slight slip off Turn 3 and a loss of momentum down the frontstretch coming to the white flag, ended his chances.

The second-place finish was Hamlin’s eighth top five of 2020 and third in a row since his Homestead victory earlier this month. The five-time Pocono victor was denied a sixth trophy, however, continued what has been a successful season since the sport’s return in May.

Coming back for the second and final race of the weekend on Sunday, Hamlin believes he has the car to beat.

“We don’t need anything,” he said of potential changes for Sunday’s race. “We have a race-winning car, just finished second today.”

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