FORT WORTH, Texas — Three weeks after winning another rain-postponed race, and since having surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, Denny Hamlin gingerly climbed out of his car in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway on Monday.
"I'm still not 100 percent by any means right now," Hamlin said. "I feel like I'm 60 at best."
That was enough to win the Samsung 500.
Hamlin led the final 12 laps, the only time he was up front after starting the 334-lap race 29th. The final shootout came after a nine-car wreck took out pole-sitter Tony Stewart and dominating Jeff Gordon, and Hamlin held off points leader Jimmie Johnson for his 10th career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.
Two days after a Monday victory at Martinsville, Hamlin had surgery on the knee he injured playing basketball in January.
After the Easter weekend break, he was back in the car for the entire race last weekend at Phoenix International. He completed 376 laps at the mile track, finishing two laps back.
Hamlin was still hurting in Texas, the soreness irritated by cool, wet weather.
"I did this for September. I knew that if I did it now, come Chase time, if I'm lucky enough to be in one of those top 12 positions, it was going to make me more prepared to make a run for the championship at that time," Hamlin said.
Hamlin, 11th in points, said he is "still a good month away from getting back where I was."
On the first lap after a restart with 18 laps left — following yellow-flag stops when Stewart was among the drivers who took only two tires and Gordon took four — they ended up three-wide with Gordon in the middle and Johnson on the inside coming out of Turn 4.
Stewart got loose in the pack and there was contact with Gordon, who had Carl Edwards coming up behind and trying to follow him. Then things spun out of control along the frontstretch, though Johnson escaped that wreck unscathed.
"Definitely my fault," Stewart said.
When Gordon got out of his mangled No. 24 Chevrolet, he walked directly to Stewart, who put his hand on Gordon's shoulder and they walked toward the pits.
"Gosh, what a race car we had," Gordon said. "That is what I am bummed out the most about."
Gordon had led six times for a race-high 124 laps and was trying to get back to the front when the accident happened. He wound up 31st, one spot ahead of Stewart, who led 74 laps.
Johnson's front left bumper was damaged when he got loose with 94 laps left and was hit by teammate Gordon, who immediately said of Johnson on his team radio, "He just wants to be treated different than everybody else."
"It's going to happen in racing. Doesn't matter if it's teammates or not," Johnson said. "Jeff and I have been racing hard against each other for wins for a long time. I really don't see it being a big deal."
The late cautions got Johnson back in order, and he got his fifth top-three finish.
"Maybe one more lap … " said Johnson, whose points lead over Matt Kenseth went from 36 to 108.
Nationwide: Kyle Busch won his fifth consecutive Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway, joining two-time series champion Jack Ingram and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as drivers to win five straight in the series at the same track.
"That's cool," Busch said.
Busch led 153 of the 200 laps in the O'Reilly 300.