Hamlin Looks to Drop Hammer

Denny Hamlin wins at Texas

Denny Hamlin wrestled the points lead away from four-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship.

Denny Hamlin won Chase Race 8 of 10 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). With the victory, he wrestled the points lead away from four-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship. Kevin Harvick finished sixth in Chase Race 8 to remain in striking distance of the title, just 59 points behind Hamlin. It is the closest-ever three-way Chase for the Sprint Cup this late in the season, and the Champion will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21.

Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by clicking here. Parking is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler, with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

It is the first time since 2005 that Johnson has relinquished the Championship lead this late in the campaign. Hamlin now leads the Chase for the  Sprint Cup Championship by 33 points over Johnson, who carried a 14-point lead into Chase Race 8 but leaves in second place. Just one race (Phoenix, Nov. 14) remains before NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Since the inception of the Chase in 2004, the driver holding the points lead with two races remaining has gone on to win the Sprint Cup Championship.                

"For me, I am going to continue to be relaxed,” Hamlin post-race. “I can't get excited or let things get to me any more. We are on the cusp of a trying to get our first Sprint Cup Championship. I am going to run Phoenix like I am 33 behind, and I am not going to be conservative, [I want] to stretch out the points lead going into Homestead."

"There's still a lot of racing left,” said Johnson. “At some point my Championship run will come to an end, but I am going to try my hardest to make sure it is not this year. I will be back next week to try it again."

Indeed, just one race remains before the Championship-finale Ford 400 on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by clicking here. Parking is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler, with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

In Chase Race 8 en route to Miami, Johnson and his 48 team were so distraught with their sloppy pit stops they switched over-the-wall crews midway through the race, opting to use Jeff Gordon’s crew for the remainder of the race. When the switch occurred, Gordon's car had been eliminated from the race due to an accident with Jeff Burton during a caution period on the 190th lap. Burton took responsibility for the accident and indicated he was trying to pull alongside Gordon to apologize for a previous brush-up. After the crashed cars stopped on the track, Gordon bolted from his car and went after Burton, pushing and shouting at him before officials separated them.

"Burton drove into my right rear and pushed me into the wall," said the four-time Champion. "I am in disbelief as to what happened. Of all the people out there, I never thought Jeff Burton would do that [to me]. He apologized for what happened and said it was his fault."

Said Burton: "Jeff went underneath me, and I should have let him go. The caution came out, and I pulled up next to him to acknowledge [my error], but he turned left and off we went. It was my fault 100 percent. I don't blame him for being mad. He was upset as I wrecked him under caution."

Gordon was scored a finish of 37th and Burton 36th. Third place in Chase Race 8 went to fan-favorite Mark Martin, who will be among the many NASCAR stars appearing in fan-hospitality areas during Ford Championship Weekend in Miami.

"We've been running good," said Martin. "It is a lot of fun when you have a shot at it. On the restart, the car was good but it got a little loose. If things had been different, the outcome might have been different."

Joey Logano—also among an impressive list of NASCAR stars appearing in fan-hospitality areas during Ford Championship Weekend in Miami—finished fourth and was pleased with his recent run.

“If we were in the Chase, we'd be about fourth or so right now, so that's exciting knowing that we'd be there,” said Logano. “We've just got to do a good job next year getting ourselves in the Chase."

But for this year’s Chase, all eyes remain on Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick headed into Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 21 for the crowning of the 2010 Sprint Cup Champion. With the Top 3 drivers in the Championship standings separated by just 59 points, it’s gearing up to be a dramatic Championship finale in South Florida. Just one race remains before the Championship-finale Ford 400 on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by clicking here. Parking is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler, with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 14 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN-TV, MRN Radio)—Chase Race 9 of 10 en route to Ford Championship Weekend.

On the Move: South Florida’s Montoya

Montoya at Texas

“The guys worked hard today to get the handling right, and just when I thought we were back in it the splitter broke.”

--Juan Pablo Montoya, who fought handling issues in Chase Race 8 of 10 en route to Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 19-21) on his “home track”

Juan Pablo Montoya  appeared to be off to a good start when the No. 42 Chevrolet lined-up fourth for the start of the 334-lap Chase Race 8. A loose handling race car, however, would require the crew to make adjustments throughout the day to get the Chevrolet back up into contention. Montoya rebounded from going a lap down only to realize that with 70 laps remaining, the front splitter had broken. Despite the handling challenges due to the splitter, Montoya was able to finish out the race and cross the finish line in 28th.

“That was a crazy race,” Montoya said post-race. “We were really loose and couldn’t figure out why. I really thought we had a tire going down at one point because the Lysol Chevy was all over the place. The guys worked hard today to get the handling right, and just when I thought we were back in it the splitter broke. We dropped like a brick after that but still finished out the day.”

Just one race remains before the Championship-finale Ford 400 in South Florida on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Montoya race for a Ford 400 victory on his home turf—as well as an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity with Montoya himself—by calling (866) 409-RACE or by clicking here.

Next up for Montoya and the Sprint Cup drivers is Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 14 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN-TV, MRN Radio)—Chase Race 9 of 10 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). For tickets starting at $55, call (866) 409-RACE or click here. Parking for Ford Championship Weekend is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler—with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

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@JPMontoya

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