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Lap-by-Lap: Atlanta

September 03, 2012, ,

Lap 327 -- CHECKERED FLAG: Jeff Gordon makes a hard charge to the outside in Turns 3 and 4, but can't pick up enough steam to get by Denny Hamlin for the victory. It's Hamlin's second win in as many weeks, and his fourth of the season.

Lap 326 -- GREEN FLAG: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are the leaders. Hamlin clears for the lead, with Gordon taking over second.

Lap 323 -- We're going to overtime!

Lap 322 -- Fuel mileage is out the window. The leaders are on pit road. Denny Hamlin gets off pit road first, Martin Truex Jr. second.

Lap 320 -- YELLOW FLAG: Jamie McMurray has plastered the outside retaining wall. It's the sixth caution of the night.

Lap 318 -- Jeff Gordon is peddling as fast as he can, but it might not be enough to catch leader Martin Truex Jr.

Lap 315 -- Kevin Harvick has moved past Brad Keselowski for fourth place. Ten laps to go.

Lap 312 -- Jeff Gordon has been unable to gain any ground on Martin Truex Jr.

Lap 309 -- Martin Truex Jr. is asking why he has to save fuel if he's got enough to make it to the end.

Lap 307 -- Martin Truex Jr. now has a 3.4-second cushion over second-place Jeff Gordon.

Lap 305 -- Twenty laps to go.

Lap 304 -- Martin Truex Jr. is being told to conserve fuel. He's got enough, supposedly, to make it just past the checkered flag.

Lap 300 -- Leader Martin Truex Jr. and third-place Denny Hamlin are running on older tires and less fuel than runnerup Jeff Gordon. Twenty-five laps to go.

Lap 298 -- Jeff Gordon is 3.1 seconds behind Martin Truex Jr., a margin that has remained steady the last couple of laps.

Lap 297 -- Kasey Kahne is on pit road with an apparent engine problem.

Lap 295 -- Thirty laps to go. Leader Martin Truex Jr. has just two top-10 finishes here at Atlanta, and zero top fives.

Lap 291 -- Jeff Gordon passes Denny Hamlin for second place. He's 1.8 seconds down to Martin Truex Jr.

Lap 289 -- Matt Kenseth appeared to have Kyle Busch passed for fifth place, but then Kenseth slipped to allow Busch to maintain the position.

Lap 288 -- Martin Truex Jr. leads Denny Hamlin by nearly a second. Jeff Gordon is charging hard from third place.

Lap 285 -- Jeff Gordon grabs third from Brad Keselowski.

Lap 282 -- Brad Keselowski gets under Kyle Busch for third place. Kevin Harvick has fallen back to seventh place.

Lap 281 -- Martin Truex Jr. sails past Denny Hamlin for the lead on the backstretch.

Lap 279 -- GREEN FLAG: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick lead the field to the green. The first four cars did not pit. Hamlin gets a great start and is clear of the field in Turn 1.

Lap 276 -- Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and a few others are pitting under the caution.

Lap 273 -- How will this caution play into fuel-mileage strategy? We'll have to wait and see!

Lap 269 -- YELLOW FLAG: There's a crash on the backstretch involving Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr.

Lap 269 -- GREEN FLAG: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are the leaders. Harvick dives under Hamlin for the lead.

Lap 267 -- Kevin Harvick has been told that he's about eight laps short on fuel of making it the rest of the way.

Lap 266 -- It's going to be iffy ... very, very iffy ... to see whether teams will be able to make it the rest of the way without stopping.

Lap 265 -- The leaders are on pit road.

Lap 264 -- YELLOW FLAG: Carl Edwards' engine finally gives up the ghost just as Martin Truex Jr. was trying to go to the high side of Denny Hamlin for the lead.

Lap 261 -- Carl Edwards is expecting his engine to detonate any time now. It's definitely down at least one cylinder. NASCAR has told him to pick up the pace.

Lap 258 -- Martin Truex Jr. is about 8/10ths of a second behind Denny Hamlin. Drivers are reporting oil coming from Carl Edwards' car.

Lap 255 -- Carl Edwards is off the pace.

Lap 250 -- Seventy-five laps to go. David Gilliland is very slow on the backstretch.

Lap 248 -- Martin Truex Jr. goes around Kevin Harvick for second place.

Lap 247 -- GREEN FLAG: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski bring the field to the green flag. Hamlin easily clears for the lead in Turns 1 and 2, but then has to fend off a charge from Harvick at the other end of the track.

Lap 242 -- The leaders are on pit road. Everyone should be able to make it the rest of the way on just one more stop. Denny Hamlin's crew rolls him out in first place.

Lap 241 -- YELLOW FLAG: The caution is out for Juan Montoya's brush with the wall. It's just the third caution of the night.

Lap 239 -- The fight for the lead has settled down. Denny Hamlin may just be letting his tires settle in for another charge at Kevin Harvick.

Lap 237 -- Kevin Harvick is hanging on to the top spot for the moment.

Lap 235 -- Denny Hamlin is there.

Lap 234 -- Two seconds. Denny Hamlin is flying!

Lap 230 -- Denny Hamlin is zeroing in on Kevin Harvick for the lead. The margin between them is down to about three seconds.

Lap 225 -- One hundred laps to go.

Lap 224 -- Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch are the top five after the stops. Harvick is 6.5 seconds ahead of Hamlin.

Lap 221 -- Denny Hamlin finally slows his pace to drop onto pit road.

Lap 219 -- Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. stop.

Lap 218 -- Teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and Brad Keselowski are pitting.

Lap 217 -- Kevin Harvick drops out of the lead to pit.

Lap 215 -- The first six cars in the running order have not pitted yet in this round of stops.

Lap 213 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes his stop.

Lap 211 -- Jeff Gordon is pitting.

Lap 210 -- Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards are pitting.

Lap 209 -- Matt Kenseth brings his car to a stop on pit road.

Lap 208 -- Mark Martin is making his pit stop. So is Jeff Burton.

Lap 205 -- Denny Hamlin is now just a few car lengths behind Kevin Harvick.

Lap 193 -- The gap between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin continues to shrink. It's down to 1.2 seconds.

Lap 190 -- Denny Hamlin continues to close on Kevin Harvick, whose cushion is now down to less than two seconds. Giddyup!

Lap 189 -- Brad Keselowski had pulled up on Kyle Busch's bumper for fourth place, but has since backed off some.

Lap 187 -- Kevin Harvick puts Dale Earnhardt Jr. a lap down. Junior is in 18th place.

Lap 184 -- Clint Bowyer's crew is changing a battery on pit road.

Lap 181 -- Denny Hamlin has picked up nearly a full second on Kevin Harvick, but he's still got some ground to make up.

Lap 178 -- Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch are the leaders after the cycle of stops. Harvick is 3.9 seconds ahead of Hamlin.

Lap 177 -- Denny Hamlin screeches to a halt in his pit stall.

Lap 175 -- Kevin Harvick gives up the lead to pit. Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and others are on pit road.

Lap 174 -- Martin Truex Jr. stops.

Lap 173 -- Sam Hornish Jr. and Jimmie Johnson are pitting.

Lap 172 -- Clint Bowyer makes his stop.

Lap 171 -- Jeff Burton, Paul Menard and Dale Earnhardt Jr. pit.

Lap 170 -- Mark Martin and Greg Biffle are on pit road.

Lap 168 -- Marcos Ambrose makes his stop.

Lap 167 -- Carl Edwards is pitting.

Lap 166 -- Tony Stewart is back on pit road. By the time this night is over, he's going to whack himself with his helmet!

Lap 165 -- Kevin Harvick's lead over Denny Hamlin continues to grow.

Lap 155 -- Bobby Labonte's six Atlanta victories are tops among active drivers.

Lap 153 -- Kyle Busch has moved into fourth place.

Lap 151 -- Kevin Harvick is building the same kind of healthy lead that he had in Saturday's Nationwide Series event.

Lap 148 -- Joey Logano is on pit road, but he's staying in the car.

Lap 146 -- Kevin Harvick has opened up some additional running room on Denny Hamlin.

Lap 144 -- The gap between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin remains about the same.

Lap 142 -- Matt Kenseth, expected to officially announce his deal with Joe Gibbs Racing in a few days, just got passed by Martin Truex Jr. for third place.

Lap 140 -- Martin Truex Jr. has moved up to fourth place.

Lap 137 -- Kevin Harvick jumped to the top of the running order on the restart, and he's opening up some room on second-place Denny Hamlin.

Lap 135 -- GREEN FLAG: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. make up the top five. There's a huge scramble back in the back on the backstretch.

Lap 131 -- The leaders are on pit road.

Lap 130 -- YELLOW FLAG: There's debris reported on the backstretch.

Lap 127 -- Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are the top five once the cycle of green-flag pit stops is completed.

Lap 125 -- Denny Hamlin eases into his pit stall.

Lap 124 -- Kevin Harvick is stopping.

Lap 123 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sam Hornish Jr., Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Sam Hornish Jr. and other are pitting.

Lap 121 -- Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards pit.

Lap 120 -- Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Jeff Burton and Jamie McMurray are making their stops.

Lap 119 -- Greg Biffle is back on pit road.

Lap 115 -- When it rains it pours for Joey Logano. Not only is he sick at his stomach, the cool box on his car has started to fail.

Lap 113 -- Kevin Harvick has picked up a half a second or so on leader Denny Hamlin in the last few laps.

Lap 111 -- Denny Hamlin's best previous Cup finish here at Atlanta is a third back in October 2008.

Lap 109 -- Kevin Harvick takes over second place from Kyle Busch.

Lap 107 -- Mark Martin is having a decent night in 10th place.

Lap 106 -- Denny Hamlin's lead over Kyle Busch is up to 3.4 seconds.

Lap 103 -- The battle between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick is still raging hot and heavy.

Lap 101 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has gone a lap down.

Lap 100 -- Kevin Harvick is working Kyle Busch over pretty hard for second place.

Lap 97 -- Denny Hamlin has put about two seconds on second-place Kyle Busch since taking the lead.

Lap 92 -- Pole-sitter Tony Stewart goes a lap down in Turn 4.

Lap 91 -- Kyle Busch bobbles a bit in Turn 4, allowing Denny Hamlin to roar by for the lead.

Lap 89 -- Denny Hamlin slides under Kyle Busch for the lead on the backstretch, but then Busch retakes the point with a nifty little crossover move.

Lap 88 -- Denny Hamlin is right back on Kyle Busch's rear bumper for the race lead.

Lap 86 -- After the cycle of green-flag stops, the top five are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

Lap 85 -- Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and others are making their stops.

Lap 84 -- Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Gordon, Sam Hornish Jr. and others are stopping.

Lap 83 -- Kyle Busch gives up the lead to bring his car to pit road. Marcos Ambrose is also in.

Lap 82 -- Greg Biffle is on pit road. So are Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch.

Lap 80 -- Michael McDowell is standing by just in case he's needed to drive in relief of the ailing Joey Logano.

Lap 78 -- Joey Logano has been fighting food poisoning this weekend. Whew ... that ain't cool. He's back in 14th place right now.

Lap 76 -- Kyle Busch once again has a rearview mirror full of Denny Hamlin.

Lap 73 -- Denny Hamlin has backed off a little bit in his pursuit of the top spot. He's now several car lengths behind Joe Gibbs Racing stablemate Kyle Busch.

Lap 71 -- The fight for the lead is a great one between Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

Lap 69 -- Kenny Hamlin has caught teammate Kyle Busch for the lead.

Lap 66 -- Greg Biffle thinks that his engine may be laying down on him. He's hanging on to eighth place right now.

Lap 61 -- Although his crew went under the car under the last caution, Kasey Kahne's race has not improved. He's back in 26th place.

Lap 60 -- Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have booted Jimmie Johnson back to fourth place.

Lap 57 -- Kyle Busch is having the kind of night that Kevin Harvick enjoyed for most of Saturday's Nationwide Series event here at Atlanta.

Lap 55 -- Sam Hornish Jr. is making yet another strong case for the Penske Racing ride. He's currently running in seventh place.

Lap 53 -- Jimmie Johnson is losing a little bit of ground to leader Kyle Busch.

Lap 51 -- Running back in 17th place, let's just say that Tony Stewart is displeased with the handling on his Chevrolet.

Lap 50 -- The top-10 drivers are separated by about six seconds.

Lap 48 -- Jeff Gordon drag races Greg Biffle down the backstretch to take over fifth place.

Lap 45 -- Denny Hamlin runs high on the track, while Jimmie Johnson is able to get past him for the runnerup position.

Lap 44 -- GREEN FLAG: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick bring the field to the restart. Busch blows clear for the lead going into Turn 1.

Lap 40 -- The leaders are on pit road. Kasey Kahne's crew is checking underneath the rear of his car.

Lap 39 -- YELLOW FLAG: Aric Almirola appears to have blown an engine. This is the first caution of the night.

Lap 37 -- Move Denny Hamlin to the top of the leaderboard.

Lap 35 -- After the disappointment that was Saturday night's Nationwide Series race, Kevin Harvick is running sixth.

Lap 33 -- Marcos Ambrose gets around Greg Biffle for fourth place. There's some traffic right behind them fighting for position.

Lap 30 -- The top five are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose.

Lap 27 -- The two leaders are about a straightaway in front of third-place Jeff Gordon, and Gordon has quite a bit of room back to Greg Biffle.

Lap 20 -- Kyle Busch leads second-place Denny Hamlin by about 8/10ths of a second.

Lap 16 -- Kyle Busch passes Jeff Gordon for the lead.

Lap 10 -- Using the high lane, Jeff Gordon takes the lead from Tony Stewart. Kyle Busch, another wild-card hopeful, has also passed Stewart and is running second.

Lap 6 -- Jeff Gordon, in the battle for the second wild card, is up to second.

Lap 2 -- Tony Stewart quickly re-takes the lead.

Lap 1 -- GREEN FLAG: The start was delayed by one lap as NASCAR inspected the track for debris. The joke from Tony Stewart's camp is that a water bottle, the controversy stemming from Saturday night's Nationwide Series race, is the culprit. The second-to-last race before the Chase is set is now under way. Points leader Greg Biffle, who started second, leads the first lap.

7:44 p.m. ET -- Cars are on the track for the opening pace laps. Tony Stewart, who earlier in the day it was learned will be losing sponsor Office Depot at season's end, is on the pole. Clint Bowyer, who qualified in the 30th position, will go to the rear following an engine change.

7:40 p.m. ET -- Richard Wright, president and CEO of AdvoCare International, delivers the starting command with assistance from Sherry Wright, distributor relations.

7:34 p.m. ET -- Four T-38s from the Sheppard Air Force Base (Texas) 80th Flying Training Wing perform the fly-over.

7:32 p.m. ET -- Southern Gospel vocal quartet Ernie Hasse & Signature Sound perform the national anthem.

7:31 p.m. ET -- Atlanta Motor Speedway chaplain Bill Brannon delivers the invocation.

7:31 p.m. ET -- The Air Force Junior ROTC Unit GA-911 from Lovejoy High School presents our nation's colors.

7:09 p.m. ET -- It's 40 minutes until the scheduled green flag at Atlanta, and weather conditions have the temperature in the mid-80s with partly cloudy skies as the sun begins its descent. Forecast for the next six hours calls for partly to mostly clear with temperatures slowly falling to near 74 degrees with winds from the south at 5 to 10 mph.

1:42 p.m. ET -- Michael McDowell, Josh Wise, Stephen Leicht and Mike Bliss failed to qualify for the race.

1:40 p.m. ET -- Gooooooooooooooood morning, Atlanta! Tony Stewart will start from the pole after turning in a lap at 186.122 mph during qualifying. Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon are slated to start second through fifth, while Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose round out the top 10.