FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Denny Hamlin went ahead in the closing 12-lap shootout for a victory at Texas Motor Speedway on Monday, holding off Jimmie Johnson at the end to win another rain-delayed race.
Hamlin won for the second time in three races, both victories coming in races that were postponed by rain before being run on the first day of the week.
It was the 10th career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory for Hamlin, who won a Monday race at Martinsville three weeks ago, then had surgery two days after for a torn ACL in his left knee. He ran every lap at Phoenix last week, and was still hurting in Texas.
“I’m trying to get it straight right now,” said Hamlin, who gingerly climbed out of the car in Victory Lane. “I did it for the long run. Even though it was going to take some sacrifice, I knew once I came back I was going to be stronger.”
Hamlin started 29th in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and never led until that final run, set up after a spectacular nine-car crash involving polesitter Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, who had led a race-high 124 laps and was trying to get back to the front.
On the first lap after a restart with 18 laps left — following yellow-flag stops when Stewart was among the drivers who took only two tires and Gordon took four — they ended up three-wide with Gordon in the middle and Johnson on the inside coming out of Turn 4.
Stewart got loose in the pack and there was contact with Gordon, who had three-time Texas winner Carl Edwards coming up behind and trying to follow him. Then things spun out of control along the frontstretch, though Johnson escaped that wreck unscathed.
“Definitely my fault,” Stewart said, taking the blame for the accident after leading five times for 74 laps.
When Gordon got out of his mangled No. 24 Chevrolet, he walked directly to Stewart, who was only halfway out of the car, still sitting on the door frame. Stewart put his hand on Gordon’s shoulder and they then walked away toward the pits talking to each other and trying to figure out what happened.
Once the track was cleaned up and the red flag was withdrawn after nearly 21 minutes, Jeff Burton was on the inside and Hamlin on the outside when the race restarted.
Burton, who took only two tires on the same stop as Stewart, didn’t have enough left to challenge and slipped all the way to finish 11th.
Johnson sustained damage on the front left bumper of his car when he got loose with 94 laps left and was hit by teammate Gordon, who is listed as the owner of the No. 48 car.
That got Johnson out of sequence on pit stops when he had to make a stop to fix a flat tire, but the late cautions got him back in order and he got his fifth top-three finish of the season. He finished only 0.152 seconds behind Hamlin.
“Maybe one more lap I could have been alongside the 11 and had a victory,” said Johnson, the four-time defending Sprint Cup champion who has already won three times this season.
Johnson led four times for 39 laps.
Gordon led six times and Dale Earnhardt Jr., another Hendrick Motorsports driver, led seven times for 46 laps.
There were 29 lead changes, tying the record for the Cup series at the 1½-mile high-banked Texas track. A dozen drivers led laps.
Kyle Busch finished third, ahead of older brother Kurt, who won at Texas in November. Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Earnhardt, Martin Truex Jr. and Greg Biffle rounded out the top 10.