Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin finished second in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, his first Nationwide Series start of the 2013 season. Hamlin qualified 18th in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry as the substitute driver for Brian Vickers, who will miss the rest of the season due to a blood clot in this leg. JGR teammates Matt Kenseth and Elliott Sadler finished fourth and seventh, respectively, while Kyle Busch had problems for the second day in a row, finishing 26th.
Hamlin, who led five times for 45 laps, was passed by winner Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 with 14 laps to go; Keselowski pulled away to win by 0.980 seconds.
“Our car just didn’t have that front line speed that those other guys did,” said Hamlin post-race. “Proud of this whole Dollar General team. This is a great run for them and a great run for me. If I had a little more experience with these cars, I would probably be able to tune it a little bit better and give those guys a run. Still for just one shot - not a bad run.”
Kenseth, in the No. 18 GameStop/Battlefield 4 Toyota on Saturday, led twice for 42 laps after qualifying 13th. Sadler qualified 19th in the No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota on his way to his 19th top 10 finish of the season; he currently sits fourth in Nationwide Series points.
Busch, in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota, qualified sixth for the race but blew a right rear tire on Lap 110 and crashed; he finished the race four laps down to the leader. The No. 54 team, which led the owner’s points standings by four points over the No. 22 going into the event, dropped to second in the standings, 26 points behind the No. 22.
Sam Hornish Jr. finished third, while Austin Dillon finished fifth.
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