HAMLIN CALLS HIS SHOT AT LOUDON
Jimmie Johnson could not beat race winner Denny Hamlin at New Hampshire but a second consecutive second-place finish elevated the five-time champion to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings heading to Dover (photo courtesy: Geoff Burke, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
Coming off a dismal finish at Chicagoland, Denny Hamlin vowed to win the next race at New Hampshire, and he did just that even though he started in the back after a poor qualification run.
In spite of starting 28th, Hamlin led 193 of the 300 laps and dominated the second race in the Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 18. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW.
“This car was lightning fast, and I wanted to win this race,” Hamlin said. “You don’t want to sound too confident, but I knew what we were capable of. This is the kind of race you dream about. It was easy to be patient (in the early going) as we knew we had a great car. And it puts us back in contention for the championship. If we can get past the next race at Dover, we will be back in contention.”
Asked about his prediction for winning the race, the winner said. “The pressure of making that statement crossed my mind, but around Lap 50, I knew we had the car to win the race, but there are other things you can’t control that can keep you out of victory lane.”
He won for the fifth time in the 2012 season and recorded his 22nd NASCAR Sprint Cup
Series career victory. For team owner Joe Gibbs and the Joe Gibbs Racing team, the acclaimed team scored its 100th Sprint Cup victory with Hamlin scoring 22 of them, Tony Stewart 33 and Kyle Busch 20.
Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended up 13th at Loudon and was never in contention with the front-runners. Earnhardt Jr. struggled to stay in the Chase pack after a miscue in the pits during the first stop on Lap 40 knocked him from ninth to 19th.
Despite multiple adjustments on the car, crew chief Steve Letarte was never able to find the comfort Junior sought. Earnhardt remains seventh in the points standings, but now trails the leader by 26 points.
With Jimmie Johnson’s strong run, he took over the championship points lead by one marker ahead of Brad Keselowski. Hamlin moved into third place in the Chase, seven points behind Johnson and trailed by Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.
Next up for the Sprint Cup Series drivers is Dover on Sunday, September 30 (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) — en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now.