Denny Hamlin made two promises before he came to New Hampshire. He delivered on both Sunday at "The Magic Mile."
Earlier this week, Hamlin guaranteed to the Twitter-verse that he would win the SYLVANIA 300. And he made good on that pledge, dominating the second race in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship. Two weeks ago, while in New Hampshire for the "Chase Across America," Hamlin promised the 169th National Guard Med-Evac Aviation Unit out of Concord, N.H., that they could celebrate with him in Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He made good on that one, too.
“I told them that if I was going to win we were all going to go to Victory Lane together,” said Hamlin, who now sits third in points. “These guys and gals put their lives in danger to save others and it's an honor to be with them, and it means a lot to me to be in their presence.”
No one was even close to Hamlin’s presence on the track Sunday. He led 193 laps and of the 601 laps run at New Hampshire this year, Hamlin was in the lead for 343 of them.
It was the fifth victory and 14th top-10 finish this season, and his second win and 10th top-10 finish in 14 starts at “The Magic Mile.” It was also the 100th Sprint Cup victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, which scored its first win back in 2000 when Dale Jarrett won the Daytona 500.
“I just had to make sure I didn’t make any enemies out there as I was moving through the field,” said Hamlin, who started 32nd. “For me, it was let’s not find a way to lose because I knew we had the fastest race car.”
Following Hamlin across the Granite Stripe were Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and July New Hampshire race winner Kasey Kahne. All five are in the Chase.
Johnson leaves New Hampshire on top of the standings, one point ahead of Brad Keselowski, who finished sixth.
“I kept waiting for him to make a mistake all day and he didn't,” said Johnson of Hamlin. “I figured he would be the guy to beat and he certainly was. But we leave the track with an above-average finish and hope to go to Dover and have a great finish there.”
Gordon sat on the pole for the SYLVANIA 300. He led the first seven laps before fading back toward the middle of the pack before a late push thrust him into the top-three.
“Today was crucial to have that finish,” said Gordon, who finished 35th last week at Chicagoland. “This is the first step, but definitely did what we needed to do today and it is great. Hopefully we can win some races along the way.”
Tony Stewart (seventh), Kevin Harvick (11th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (13th), Matt Kenseth (14th), Martin Truex Jr. (17th) and Greg Biffle (18th) round out the finishing positions for other drivers in the Chase.
Mike Olsen, who teamed up with lifelong friend crew chief/car owner Frank Stoddard, finished 33rd. The two became the first New Hampshire-born driver and crew chief tandem to start a Cup race at “The Magic Mile.”
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