Dominator: Denny Hamlin Runs Away With Sylvania 300 At New Hampshire Motor Speedway

LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin began his weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway going backwards in more ways than one.

Denny Hamlin calls his shot after winning Sunday at NHMS (Getty Images for NASCAR)

First Hamlin backed out of his own guarantee that he would win in Loudon. Then it was backwards on the track, when a tire pressure issue saw him flailing to a 32nd place run in qualifying.

Hamlin ended the weekend by reversing field in nearly perfect fashion. Sunday was all about going forward for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Hamlin rallied from the deep start in swift fashion, got to the front and then dominated the rest of the way in winning the Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It was the fifth victory of the season for Hamlin. It was the 100th Sprint Cup Series victory for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization since the team debuted in 1992.

Jimmie Johnson was second and Jeff Gordon third.

It was vindication for Hamlin not only for mistakes in the July event in Loudon and also for his slow start in the first race of the Chase for the Championship last week at Chicagoland Speedway.

Hamlin looked on cruise control to victory in the July 15 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway until a caution flew on lap 233 sending all the leaders to pit road for the last time.

Hamlin expected his team to put on two tires, but Hamlin’s crew chief Darian Grubb thought Hamlin said he wanted four. So while most of the lead pack cars took two tires and scurried back on track, Hamlin watched them all run away. He came out of the pits in 13th place and could rally to no better than a second place finish behind Kasey Kahne.

At Chicagoland last week, Hamlin ran out of fuel late dropping from the top-10 to an eventual finish of 16th at Chicagoland. After the event Hamlin went on Twitter and said he would come back by winning the Sylvania 300.

The confident prediction was the talk of the garage Friday at New Hampshire and all the talk had Hamlin backing off by saying he never really guaranteed the win.

It all made for good theater at the end of the day Sunday though for Hamlin. After taking the checkered and ripping off a frontstretch burnout, Hamlin came around the track and parked his car on the start/finish line. He got out of the car, stepped into an imaginary batter’s box, pointed at the fences and then took a big swing.

“It doesn’t hurt to have a little confidence in your team,” Hamlin said. “I know we’ve made a couple big mistakes over the last two weeks but I said we were fast enough to make it up and we were. I’ll have these guys’ back until they die. It’s just my team.”

Hamlin made a furious charge to the front right from the start. Before the race Hamlin said he hoped to have made it into the top-10 by lap 100. On lap 94 he passed teammate Kyle Busch for the lead.

From there nobody had anything to stay with him. At the finish Hamlin led Johnson by a 2.675 seconds.

Asked if there was anything they could do with Hamlin, Johnson and third place Jeff Gordon could only shake their heads.

“No,” Johnson said. “I kept waiting for him to make a mistake and he wouldn’t. He did a great job.”

Said Gordon: “I don’t think that thing bobbled all day. I never saw him slide a tire.”

The victory put Hamlin seven points out the standings lead with eight events remaining in the Chase. Five-time series champion Johnson used his runner-up to vault over Brad Keselowski for the standings lead by one point. Hamlin is third.

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