Loudon, N.H., — Denny Hamlin clearly dominated the Sylvania 300 and drove away with the victory in the second race of the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Hamlin was 28th when the green dropped on the field, and it did not take long to drive through the field and out front where the No. 11 crushed the competition. Hamlin had confidence coming into New Hampshire after the miscue with fuel in Chicago.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a little confidence in your team,” said Hamlin. “I know we made a couple big mistakes over the last two weeks, but I said we were fast enough to make it up.”
“You don’t want to sound too cocky, but I knew what we were capable of,” Hamlin added. “Our car was extremely strong and I have a really good knack for this racetrack and the two together with a crew chief like Darian (Grubb) it’s a winning combination.”
The victory marks a milestone for Joe Gibbs Racing with the 100th victory for the organization.
“I just want to say thanks to everybody back home, it’s a thrill to be here,” said owner, Joe Gibbs. “It’s just a big deal that as a group, it took all of us, to get to this point.”
Jimmie Johnson finished second for the second consecutive week. Johnson leaves New Hampshire on top the points standings, just one point over Brad Keselowski.
“We were the next best car and finished second,” said Johnson. “We knew based on the spring race these guys (No. 11) were going to be real tough here today and they certainly were.”
“We’ve got some good ones (tracks) coming up for this No. 48 team starting next weekend (Dover) and I’m really excited about things,” added Johnson. “I think I left about seven points on the table with two win points and extra points for that and leading the most this week and to be two races in and feel that that’s all we’ve left behind, that’s pretty good so I’m happy.”
Another happy driver was Jeff Gordon who had a third place finish and a positive rebound from an unfortunate start to the Chase in Chicago.
“We gained a lot on a lot of guys,” said Gordon, who started on the pole. “It’s going to be tough to gain on guys like the No. 48 (Johnson) and the No.2 (Keselowski) and certainly on days like today, nobody was going to gain on that No. 11 (Hamlin).
“It was still a really good effort, a top-three,” Gordon added.
Fourth place finisher Clint Bowyer was happy with a top-five finish, but hoped for more at track the Michael Waltrip Racing driver likes.
“This is one of my favorite tracks, it’s been good to me over the years,” said Bowyer. “Not what I wanted, but certainly what we needed.”
For a second week Kasey Kahne was consistent and had a solid day toward a fifth place finish.
“We were fast, but not as fast as a few of those guys,” said Kahne. “The crew did a good job on stops and keeping us toward the front, and we’ve been pretty consistent so far.”
“The first two is good for the chase and hopefully we can keep it going and get a little faster if we want to catch those other guys,” Kahne added.
Sixth place was Brad Keselowski, and Tony Stewart finished seventh. Joey Logano finished eighth, Brian Vickers was ninth, and Ryan Newman wrapped up the top-10.
The points see some shake up with Johnson on top of the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings only one point ahead of Keselowski. Hamlin is third only seven points back. Ten points back is Stewart in fourth, and Kahne and Bowyer are even 15 points behind the leader in fifth and sixth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is seventh (-26), Kevin Harvick is eighth (-31), and Greg Biffle is ninth 33 points behind. Tenth place is Martin Truex, Jr., (-34), Matt Kenseth is 11th (-35), and Gordon is 12th (-45).