Denny Hamlin holds off Brad Keselowski at Kansas for fifth win of 2020

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - JULY 23: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, races during the NASCAR Cup Series Super Start Batteries 400 Presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts at Kansas Speedway on July 23, 2020 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Will Denny Hamlin get his first title in 2020? (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin is the first driver to five wins in 2020.

Hamlin passed Kevin Harvick with just over 12 laps to go at Kansas on Thursday and held off Brad Keselowski in the race’s final six laps to get his fifth win of the season and become the winningest driver in the Cup Series.

Hamlin entered the race tied with Harvick for the most wins in 2020. And Harvick took the lead with a fantastic restart move with 21 laps to go as he pushed Alex Bowman to the lead and then passed him as soon as he got done with the push.

Harvick’s lead didn’t last long, however, as Hamlin chased him down. Harvick then faded back to fourth as Keselowski tried to mount a charge toward Hamlin. That didn’t work, as Hamlin didn’t have to fend off a pass attempt from Keselowski.

Hamlin won at Kansas in 2019

Hamlin dominated the fall race at Kansas in 2019 as he led 153 of 267 laps on the way to a win and a berth in the third round of the playoffs.

He wasn’t as dominant Thursday night. Hamlin led the most laps of anyone, but he led just 57 circuits.

After he took the checkered flag, Hamlin called his team a “dream team.” And it’s hard to argue with how good the No. 11 team has been this season, even if the recent results haven’t showed it.

Hamlin hadn’t finished better than 12th in the three races since he won at Pocono. But he had a Brickyard 400 win in sight when he had a tire go down late in the race while leading and could have finished in the top 10 at Texas before he was involved in two late-race cautions.

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Best driver to never win a title

Hamlin’s win is the 42nd of his career and he’s continuing to solidify his status as the best Cup Series driver to never win a title. There’s also no denying that 2020 is probably his best shot at a championship.

Hamlin, who has three Daytona 500 wins to his name, is already a Hall of Fame-caliber driver. But his case will become a no-brainer if and when he wins a title. And he’s, at worst, a co-favorite for the title with Harvick.

15 races in 67 days

NASCAR has done its best to get back on schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday night’s race was the 15th in 67 days since NASCAR resumed racing on May 17 at Darlington. The race was also the final Cup Series race before a 10-day break ahead of an Aug. 2 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It was also the last midweek race for the foreseeable future. NASCAR’s Cup Series schedule is set through the end of August and the regular season includes seven races over the month.

All of those races are on weekends. Races at New Hampshire and Daytona (twice) are by themselves on the first, third and fifth weekends of the month. The second and fourth weekends of the month include Saturday-Sunday doubleheader races at both Michigan and Dover. The second Dover race, on August 23, will go head-to-head with the rescheduled Indianapolis 500.

Johnson out of the playoffs ... for now

Jimmie Johnson was involved in a mid-race crash when Joey Logano had an apparent part failure.

The wreck ended up dropping Johnson to 32nd in the finishing order and out of the provisional playoff field with seven races to go. Johnson has not finished in the top 10 since he was 10th at Martinsville on June 10 — a span of seven races that doesn’t include the race at Indianapolis he missed after testing positive for COVID-19.

The seven-time champion is now 18th in the playoff standings and 18 points behind William Byron for the final spot in the 16-driver playoffs because of 19th-place Cole Custer’s win at Kentucky and 17th-place Austin Dillon’s win at Texas.

Race results

1. Denny Hamlin

2. Brad Keselowski

3. Martin Truex Jr.

4. Kevin Harvick

5. Erik Jones

6. Aric Almirola

7. Cole Custer

8. Alex Bowman

9. Kurt Busch

10. William Byron

11. Kyle Busch

12. Chase Elliott

13. Tyler Reddick

14. Clint Bowyer

15. Ty Dillon

16. Michael McDowell

17. Matt Kenseth

18. Daniel Suarez

19. John Hunter Nemechek

20. Ryan Blaney

21. Corey LaJoie

22. JJ Yeley

23. Christopher Bell

24. Quin Houff

25. Josh Bilicki

26. Garrett Smithley

27. Austin Dillon

28. Ryan Newman

29. Joey Gase

30. Brennan Poole

31. Reed Sorenson

32. Jimmie Johnson

33. Chris Buescher

34. Ryan Preece

35. Joey Logano

36. Matt DiBenedetto

37. Bubba Wallace

38. Timmy Hill

39. BJ McLeod

40. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Points standings

1. Kevin Harvick, 763 points

2. Brad Keselowski, 666

3. Ryan Blaney, 663

4. Denny Hamlin, 634

5. Chase Elliott, 630

6. Joey Logano, 609

7. Martin Truex Jr., 602

8. Aric Almirola, 576

9. Kyle Busch, 562

10. Kurt Busch, 561

11. Alex Bowman, 539

12. Clint Bowyer, 484

13. Matt DiBenedetto, 477

14. William Byron, 452

15. Tyler Reddick, 442

16. Erik Jones, 440

17. Austin Dillon, 438

18. Jimmie Johnson, 434

19. Cole Custer, 352

20. Bubba Wallace, 352

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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