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NASCAR At Charlotte: Denny Hamlin assumes lead just past 200-mile mark

It took him 200 miles to do it, but Denny Hamlin has his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota out front in the Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hamlin, who started seventh but has run in the top-five virtually all night, assumed the lead during the just-completed cycle of pit stops. Jimmie Johnson, who had been leading, stayed out several extra laps - a fuel mileage play. Those laps on old tires compared to the fresh rubber for Hamlin and Brad Keselowski allowed them to overhaul his Chevy as he exited pit road.

Johnson has retaken second-place, with Keselowski holding third. Kasey Kahne holds fourth, meaning the top-four in the standings hold the top-four spots on the track as well. Polesitter Greg Biffle rounds out the top-five. Kyle Busch holds sixth ahead of Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, and Carl Edwards.

One of the stories of the weekend has been A.J. Allmendinger's return to the Sprint Cup Series for the first time since his July suspension for failing a drug test. Allmendinger is enjoying a quietly solid evening in 21st, one lap off the pace in his Phoenix Racing Chevrolet. Former Phoenix driver Kurt Busch - in his first race for Furniture Row Racing - is three spots better in 18th.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.