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Hamlin caps marathon day of racing at Pocono with 4th win

NASCAR Pocono Auto Racing - AP Photo/Matt Slocum

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Denny Hamlin held off Kevin Harvick on Sunday night to win the second Cup race of the weekend at Pocono Raceway and flip the result of the opener.

Hamlin raced to his fourth victory of the season — and sixth at Pocono — to cap a wild, marathon day of racing at the track, with three NASCAR races and a near-darkness Cup finish. Pocono doesn’t have lights — but the pit road numbers were lit up and glowed as Hamlin took the checkered flag for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Hamlin had a late vibration in his No. 11 Toyota on Saturday that hindered his attempt to catch Harvick down the stretch. About 25 hours later, Hamlin surged past Harvick and built a nearly 3-second lead; Harvick’s serious run at the victory slowed because of a loose wheel.

The Daytona 500 champion won the finale of the first NASCAR tripleheader at one track. The race was delayed by lightning and rain, as much a part of Pocono as a JGR driver taking the checkered flag. Gibbs’ roster has six of the last seven winners at the 2½ mile tri-oval track.

Hamlin has 41 career victories to move to 19th on NASCAR’s career list.

They ran six laps before the race was red-flagged nearly 51 minutes because or rain. NASCAR ran several pace laps before the race finally went green around 6:15 p.m.. It was a race against darkness to complete the full 350 miles.

Harvick won Saturday’s race and put the brakes on a burnout — he had to save that engine for another run in the same No. 4 Ford. The starting lineup was inverted for Sunday’s race so Harvick started 20th.

The rain wreaked havoc with the third NASCAR race of the day at Pocono. Brandon Jones opened the day with a win in the Truck Series race and Chase Briscoe won the Xfinity race. Pocono became the first track in NASCAR history to hold three national series races on the same day.

NASCAR’s hope to capitalize on being about the only major sport to run live every week with sports on pause in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has been besieged by weather issues. Sunday marked the ninth race out of 15 this season with a weather delay and three have been moved a full day. It’s hard to keep TV viewers interested when its a parade of Air Titans instead of a mad dash to the checkered flag.

Pocono is notorious for rainy weekends and in 2016 had two Cup races and an IndyCar race all washed out and run on Monday. The “Need Help or Info?” signs around the track went unneeded as the only thing in the grandstands was rain.

It put yet another damper on seven-time Jimmie Johnson’s farewell season. Johnson, a three-time winner at Pocono, was honored by the track over the weekend. Pocono painted “Jimmie” on one side of the start/finish line, added a painted “48 Jimmie Johnson” rock to their infield collection of race legends, and his two young daughters gave the command for the driver’s to start their engines.

“Yes I’m biased but… that was the best command to start engines. Ever,” Johnson tweeted.

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