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Hamlin calls his shot, wins at New Hampshire

September 23, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com



Hamlin calls his shot, wins at New Hampshire

Denny Hamlin called his shot -- and gave the rest of the field a handicap before he fulfilled his own prophecy.

After running out of fuel in the first Chase for the Sprint Cup race last Sunday at Chicagoland, Hamlin promised via his Twitter feed that he would win Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It was no contest. Though he started deep in the field, Hamlin drove his vastly superior car to a 2.675-second victory over runner-up Jimmie Johnson. The victory was Hamlin's fifth of the season and the 22nd of his Cup career.

* Final Laps | Victory Lane | Post-Race Reactions

After taking the checkered flag, Hamlin parked his car beneath the flag stand, climbed out, raised his arm and pointed to the grandstand in a gesture designed to recall Babe Ruth's called shot in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series.

An avid fan of sports other than racing, Hamlin claimed the 100th Cup victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, a team owned and named for the former Washington Redskins coach who won 248 NFL games and three Super Bowls. JGR is the sixth team to achieve that milestone.

Pole-sitter Jeff Gordon ran third to keep alive his faint championship hopes. Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart ran fourth through seventh, respectively, as Chase drivers swept the top seven spots.

Hamlin said he used the promise to win more as a way to reassure his fans that New Hampshire would provide a comeback from Chicagoland. Early in the race, however, he knew he had a car capable of fulfilling the promise.

"I knew, once we got to about Lap 50 and started working our way to the sixth or seventh position -- I knew that we had the winning car," Hamlin said. "It's all those other things that you can't control that can keep you out of Victory Lane. It's the untimely caution, things like that.

"For me, that was the most nerve-racking part -- let's not find a way to lose -- because I knew we had the fastest car [Sunday], and I've obviously got a great knack for this race track."

* Caraviello: Hamlin riding a streak that has a familiar look

Hamlin led 193 of 300 laps at the 1.058-mile track. Clearly, Hamlin was the class of the field, but it wasn't obvious to Johnson where he was getting beaten.

"It was hard to tell," said Johnson, who snagged the Chase lead by one point over Keselowski. "He had a lot of speed in his car and seemed to be able to go when he needed to and wanted to. It was just a great job on their behalf. We were the next best car, finished second and passed a lot of cars ourselves [Sunday, from the 20th starting position].

"We knew based on the [July] race that those guys were going to be tough, and they certainly were. ... I kept waiting for him to make a mistake. He did a good job.

Added Gordon: "I don't think that thing bobbled all day."

Hamlin, who climbed to third in the standings (seven points behind Johnson) started 32nd because of a mistake with tire pressures during Friday's time trials, but before the race had reached Lap 100, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota had the lead (watch). Hamlin passed JGR teammate Kyle Busch on Lap 94 and proceeded to dust the field the rest of the way.

Hamlin held a lead of more than 7 seconds over Johnson when NASCAR called the third debris caution of the race, and fourth overall, on Lap 272. The yellow bunched the field, but it didn't matter, as Hamlin sped away after a restart on Lap 278 and easily held off Johnson, who finished second for the second consecutive race.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Denny Hamlin scored his 22nd career win in his 251st start, tie for 29th all time with Terry Labonte and Matt Kenseth.
• Denny Hamlin scored his season-high fifth win of the season; he's won three of the past five races.
• Denny Hamlin scored his second win in his 14th start at New Hampshire; he had finished second three times since his previous New Hampshire win.
• Denny Hamlin posted his fifth Chase win.
• Denny Hamlin qualified 32nd; it's just the sixth Chase race won by a driver who time trialed 30th or worse.
• The driver winning the second Chase race won the championship in the past three seasons.
• Denny Hamlin led four times for 193 laps, including the last 52.
• Crew Chief Darian Grubb scored his 10th win in the past 38 races and sixth Chase victory in the past 12 races.
• Joe Gibbs Racing scored its 100th career win; it's the six organization with 100 or more Cup victories.
• Joe Gibbs Racing scored its ninth Chase win and fifth at New Hampshire; it has seven wins this season, tied with Hendrick Motorsports for the most.
• Toyota posted its ninth win of 2012 and second victory at New Hampshire.
• Jimmie Johnson (second) posted his 35th top-two finish in 82 Chase races; he's finished second in both Chase races this season.
• Jeff Gordon (third) posted his fourth top-three finish in the past five races this season.
• Clint Bowyer (fourth) posted his sixth top-10 in the past seven races this season.
• Kasey Kahne (fifth) posted his sixth top-five in the past 12 races this season.
• Brad Keselowski (sixth) posted his 11th top-10 in the past 12 races this season.
• Brian Vickers (ninth) posted his fourth top-10 in seven starts in 2012.

* Press Pass: Hamlin dominates | Johnson second again | Gordon strong, needs repeat