Hamlin holds off Keselowski for fifth Cup victory of season

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Denny Hamlin does a burnout after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., Thursday, July 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Three straight finishes outside the top 10 for Denny Hamlin these days counts as a rough patch.

He was once again smooth as they get Thursday night.

Hamlin hung around the front of the pack all night, avoiding trouble that cost several playoff contenders in the final stage, then breezed past Kevin Harvick for the lead in the closing laps. Hamlin then held off charging Brad Keselowski for his NASCAR Cup Series-leading fifth victory of the season and 42nd overall. He also won for the second straight time at Kansas Speedway.

“I don't know we had the best car. We definitely had a top-three car all day,” Hamlin said after his burnout in front of the empty grandstands. “We just went for it there at the end. The pit crew did an amazing job getting us out there in front.”

Hamlin had struggled the past three weeks, failing to finish better than 12th. But after showing good speed early, his Joe Gibbs Racing team made all the right calls during a crash-filled final stage. Keselowski finished second and Martin Truex Jr. came across third. Harvick wound up sliding to fourth and Erik Jones capped a big day for the Gibbs boys in fifth.

William Byron led the race as he chased his first career race, but he slide backward after a late caution and wound up finishing 10th. Alex Bowman also made a charge to the lead but finished behind Aric Almirola and Cole Custer in eighth.

The youngsters wound up leaving it to the veterans to battle it out over the final laps.

“We got to the lead but we just went dead sideways after about four or five laps,” said Harvick, who had been tied with Hamlin with four wins. “We were just holding on hoping for another restart, because we could hang for a couple laps.”