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Denny Hamlin and teammate Kyle Busch will have to regroup for California, after a ragged Kansas Sunday

  It was a chilly Sunday morning for Denny Hamlin (L) and crew chief Mike Ford, and things didn't get much warmer for them as the day went on. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Denny Hamlin didn't have a good Sunday. And it cost him the NASCAR tour lead.
   But then Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford just wanted to get through these first three championship playoff events without any major problems, and that they've done.
   So going to California's Auto Club Speedway in Los Angeles this week Hamlin is just eight points behind the new tour leader.
   Unfortunately that new tour leader is the same guy who has won the last four NASCAR championships and who just won at California earlier this year.
   Jimmie Johnson.
   "It's tough," Hamlin said of losing the lead to Sunday runner-up Johnson.  "But you're going to have to run well all 10 of these races. 
    "The good part is we didn't panic and get ourselves into a wreck or something like that. 
     "You've got to make the most of your bad days...and if this is a bad day for us, then we're going to rebound next weekend. 
    "We're going to just keep fighting.
    "The next few races we need to stay in the hunt, and that's going to be important for us. 
      "An important thing is to not make mistakes over these next few weeks. 
     "We need to have a shot at it going into those last five races. So the next two weeks now is just about making sure we're still in the hunt."
    Well, Hamlin wasn't in the hunt here Sunday.
    "We were hanging around 20th most of the day," he conceded. "The car just went back and forth. Even when I thought the balance was close we were just two- or three- or four-tenths off. 
     "We had some different stuff than we typically have in our car for this race.  I was a bit worried about it at the beginning; but I knew right away we were going to have a long day. 
    "Still it's a good fight for this team to rebound to 12th. 
      "It's not the kind of run we want, by any means."

    Teammate Kyle Busch, also in the chase, had a worse day, finishing 21st, and that was almost a miracle, considering his hard smack in the wall midway through the Kansas 400.
   Payback from David Reutimann, for an earlier incident?
    That's what Busch considered it.
   At first Busch wanted a NASCAR penalty on Reutimann, presumably for rough driving. But Reutimann himself actually got the worst of the deal, winding up 35th, some 15 miles down.
    Then Busch decided to take the high road: "Whatever.  It's just really unfortunate -- These guys work their butts off...and to put ourselves in the chase, and to have the opportunity to try to go after a championship, and to have it end up something like that. 
    "The guy was loose; he said it on the radio. 
     "He slid up off the bottom (in the first incident), and I got into him unintentionally and just spun him out.  My fault 100 percent.
    "But then the retaliation -- to a guy in the chase, that's racing for something....
     "He'll be here next year.  He could have wrecked me in any of the first 26 races next year, that would have been fine.  
      "It's just hard to swallow something like this, on a day where we had a solid top-five car going."
    At least Busch had crew chief Dave Rogers in his corner, pulling off major repairs that, if they'd taken the car behind the wall, might have cost them five laps.
   As it was, Busch finished just one lap down.
    "Dave did a phenomenal job getting this car to where we could run upfront," Busch said.
    "We'd had a really good car going...and when we got hit it just bent everything under the rear-end. 
     "We salvaged the best we could."

    Reutimann's side: "He got into me and wrecked us, and pretty much messed up our day.
     "He just rolled over me. 
      "I'm on the bottom of the track, and he had the whole top of the track...and he ran over me. 
     "I got wrecked. 
      "You guys can sugarcoat it all the time, but he wrecked me. 
     "You can tell me how bad he wants it, how hard he drives, how much he wants it above everybody else.  That's all fine.  You guys can say all that...but he just wrecked me."
     And retaliation? Reutimann brushed it off: "What do you think?  It just got tight.
     "We don't have a history on the track.  There's been stuff said, but as far as he and I -- no problem.
     "If you guys want me to feel bad, then, yeah, I feel bad that our car got wrecked and it ruined our day. That's what I feel bad about."


    Dave Rogers' crew did a good job of major repairs....but maybe Kyle Busch should have been a little more cautious around David Reutimann, who showed this dog will bite (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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