The Sun came out, literally, for Denny Hamlin in Kansas.
Martin Truex Jr. seemed to have the race locked in, he led a race-high 173 laps.
Then came the last green flag pit stops. Hamlin, then running second, pitted one lap earlier than Truex. Hamlin passed Truex with 30 laps remaining and held on for his second Sprint Cup victory of the year.
While most of the 267-lap race was run in overcast conditions the sun came out near the end giving Hamlin’s Toyota a small advantage over the similar car driven by Truex.
"We got our car a little bit better and it looked like the 56 (Truex) struggled a little bit more than what he had previous,” Hamlin said.
Truex made a determined overtaking attempt on lap 264 dive bombing turn three but didn’t make the pass losing precious ground to the winner. It was his last best chance to break back into Victory Lane.
“It was desperation, last‑ditch effort, just trying something. There was no chance of me even coming back to making it work,” Truex said.
Commenting on Truex’s late race, unsuccessful attempt to re-pass for the win Hamlin added "I know Martin was driving his heart out. I know it's disappointing not to win when you have a dominant car."
Hamlin explained whether it was the Sun or whatever difference came at the end, "I felt like all day I was behind the 56 and his car looked so superior to the field. We just needed some kind of change, weather or adjustments or something to get where he was at, and we kind of got both of them."
Truex didn’t blame Mother Nature; it was more about his last set of tires.
"I don't think it was the sun," said Truex. "It was just bad, bad loose on that last run."
"If I had made a mistake or we’d made a bad adjustment or something, it probably would be a lot easier to swallow," Truex added. "But to put tires on and … all of a sudden the car drives worse than it has all day; it’s pretty frustrating when you haven’t won in a while."
Jimmie Johnson finished third in a Hendrick Motor Sports Chevrolet. It’s now been 14 races since HMS won its’ last race and still stuck on 199 wins.
"We had good speed and we could run second and third all day long, but to catch the 56 we needed more and we worked real hard through the middle part of the race. We got a lot of speed and I could get to him, I just couldn’t pass him," Johnson said.
AJ Allmendinger led the first 44 laps from the pole but his Dodge suffered an engine malady putting him laps down. Point’s leader, Greg Biffle finished fifth in a Ford behind teammate, Matt Kenseth.
The one and one-half-mile Kansas Speedway will be repaved after this race.