Willwerth: NASCAR Notebook

Where does Denny Hamlin go from here?

By Brian Willwerth 

Is this the race that jump-starts Denny Hamlin? We shall see.

Hamlin drove his #11 Toyota to victory lane Sunday for the first time this year, taking the checkered flag in the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

A late caution enabled Hamlin to take the lead coming out of the pits. From there, he held off a fast-charging Matt Kenseth in the final five laps.  Hamlin also won this race last June – one of eight victories for him in 2010.  But it took him until June to finally break through this year.

Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and points leader Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. Edwards is still atop the standings with a 20-point advantage over Kevin Harvick. Hamlin’s victory moved him up three spots, from 12th to 9th.

THE WRECK WRAP

*It was a rough afternoon for five-time champion Jimmy Johnson. He went for a spin early in the race and never recovered.  He finished 27th.

*Brad Keselowski brought out the yellow flag when he blew a tire, and ended up with a nice, long mark along the side of his #2 car, a.k.a. the Blue Deuce.

*Andy Lally ran into the back of Juan Pablo Montoya, who may have run out of gas. Montoya went for a ride in his #42 machine.

*The unhappiest driver after the race was Dale Earnhardt Jr.  He got pinched into the wall by Mark Martin, prompting Junior to give some interesting comments during his post-race interview.  He finished 21st.

Next up: the drivers head west to Sonoma, CA for the first of two road-course races on the calendar. Yes, they’ll actually be turning right in addition to left.

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