LOUDON, N.H. -- Denny Hamlin dominated. Then Kasey Kahne finished.
After a critical miscue on pit road, Kahne held off a furious late charge by Hamlin to win Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
When David Reutimann’s No. 10 Chevolet blew an engine on lap 234 coming out of Turn 2, Hamlin, then the leader, pitted for a four-tire change. The problem? Everyone else, including Kahne, went with two.
“Your time to communicate and figure out what you’re going to do is really 45 seconds,” Hamlin said. “I said ‘Just give me tires, and no adjustments,’ and [crew chief Darian Grubb] took that as four tires.
“Nothing’s a given. Even though it was pretty obvious we had a win in the bag if we took two tires, you never know what could happen. Either way, we had a good day and we’re going to build on it.”
Though Hamlin nearly roared his way back with a fresh set of tires, moving from 13th on the Lap 240 restart after the pit to the ultimate runner-up spot, Kahne’s lead was too great, giving the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet his second win of 2012. He led the last 66 laps of the race.
“We had a good pit strategy, got the track position,” Kahne said. “I was definitely focused on the lapped cars I was going by and how I could clear them quick. But I lost a ton of forward drive, I was getting pretty loose. I was paying attention to where he was, but I felt pretty good about the lead we had.”
In the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota, Hamlin had taken advantage of an early penalty on Kyle Busch, who had led the first 66 laps from the pole position before entering the first cycle of green-flag pit stop too fast, and subsequently got held up with a problem on his right rear tire change.
The speed limit in pit row was 45 miles per hour at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, down from the usual 55, though Busch competed in Saturday’s Nationwide race, where the reduced pit speed was in effect. He fell back to 23rd, and Hamlin overtook the lead with a pit more than nine seconds faster than Busch, and had built up a 2.31-second lead over Busch until the miscommunication caused him to fall back by over four seconds.
Grubb had been away all weekend after his wife gave birth, but Hamlin shrugged off the idea that Grubb’s absence contributed to the error.
“That one little mistake will magnify it and take a win away from you,” Hamlin said. “We lost three points today. That’s about it. Even though we didn’t get the win and the trophy, we just missed out on three points.”
Kahne’s victory moved him into first in the Sprint Cup Wild Card standings for the final two positions.
“I think we’ve been pretty tough all year, we just haven’t finished them off a lot of the times,” Kahne said. “From here out, we just need to stay after it. It doesnt’ get us in the Chase yet, but it certainly helps.”
Clint Bowyer came in third.
Jeff Gordon inherited the lead on lap 88 after debris on Turn 3 brought out the first caution and Hamlin went into the pits, while Gordon stayed on the track. He wound up pitting on lap 146 by himself and faded back a lap, and continued his frustrating season with a 17th-place finish.
Brad Keselowski, who won Saturday’s Nationwide Series F.W. Webb 200, finished fifth, while runner-up Kevin Harvick, who created a mini-firestorm by calling out rookie driver Amber Cope following the race, came in eighth.