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Hamlin Labors His Way To A Victory At Atlanta

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Monday, September 3 2012

Denny Hamlin led Jeff Gordon to the finish line at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Cleary)

Denny Hamlin out ran Jeff Gordon over the final two laps and earned his second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory Sunday night when he won the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The victory was Hamlin’s series-best fourth of the season and the 21st of his career.

Hamlin, first out of the pits for the green/white/checkered restart, beat Gordon to the finish line by .378 seconds.

“This is one I wanted real bad,” Hamlin said. “Pit crew. Pit crew won me the race. And that’s what a championship team is all about, having all those pieces of the puzzle put together. This year, I think we have it all.”

Gordon restarted the race for the final time on Hamlin’s rear bumper. He stayed, there, however, not opting to bump Hamlin out of the way.

“I’m just mad at myself right now,” Gordon said. “I guess I’m just getting soft in my old age; I’m too nice. You know, 15 years ago I would have just moved him right up the race track. I don’t know why I didn’t do that. I thought I could get to his quarter panel and slow him down and stay there. But I got there and I just carried too much speed into (turn) three and it pushed up the race track.”

Brad Keselowski ran third, followed by Truex and Kevin Harvick.

After the midpoint of the race, Harvick and Hamlin established themselves as the class of the field, running away from the pack after a restart on Lap 135. Hamlin’s team opted to stretch fuel mileage, intending to finish the race on one more stop after coming to pit road under green on Lap 221.

Harvick had pitted for fuel and four tires on Lap 216 and would have needed two more stops to make it to the end of the race. The tradeoff was that the extra five laps on new tires had given Harvick an 8.4-second lead over Hamlin after the cycle of stops.

Hamlin, however, trimmed a second per lap from Harvick’s advantage and had pulled up to the bumper of the No. 29 Chevrolet when caution for Juan Pablo Montoya’s brush with the outside wall on Lap 241 made all the fuel calculations moot.

Hamlin beat Harvick off pit road under the yellow and held the top spot after a restart on Lap 248. Truex moved past Harvick into the second position one lap later and kept Hamlin in his sights during the ensuing green flag run.

Running a higher line than Hamlin, Truex was moments away from taking the lead when the engine in Carl Edwards’ No. 99 Ford blew on Lap 264, causing the fourth caution of the night. The early end to Edwards’ night forces last year’s Chase runner-up to win next Saturday at Richmond to have a chance at a wild-card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Pit stops on Lap 266 put fuel strategy back into play. Hamlin, for instance, left pit road needing to save four laps worth of fuel to get to the checkered flag. On the restart on Lap 270, though, the entire tenor of the race changed when Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr. wrecked on the backstretch.

His car destroyed, Newman’s only realistic avenue into the Chase is the same as Edwards’ — victory at Richmond.

RACE RESULTS

1. (7) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 327, $355,716.

2. (5) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 327, $245,976.

3. (21) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 327, $197,435.

4. (28) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 327, $173,354.

5. (24) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 327, $172,101.

6. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 327, $162,398.

7. (35) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 327, $127,490.

8. (18) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 327, $120,390.

9. (4) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 327, $153,801.

10. (6) Mark Martin, Toyota, 327, $107,790.

11. (15) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 327, $145,730.

12. (26) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 327, $142,255.

13. (16) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 327, $129,638.

14. (27) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 327, $126,638.

15. (2) Greg Biffle, Ford, 327, $112,205.

16. (32) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 327, $100,305.

17. (10) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 327, $127,488.

18. (9) Joey Logano, Toyota, 327, $106,680.

19. (25) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 327, $120,013.

20. (40) Landon Cassill, Toyota, 326, $124,475.

21. (33) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 326, $126,146.

22. (1) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 326, $156,380.

23. (11) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 325, $102,555.

24. (20) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 325, $124,763.

25. (22) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 324, $93,180.

26. (41) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 324, $111,888.

27. (30) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 324, $118,844.

28. (14) David Ragan, Ford, 323, $99,777.

29. (23) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 321, $87,555.

30. (42) TJ Bell, Ford, 319, $97,180.

31. (29) David Gilliland, Ford, 298, $87,255.

32. (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 297, $124,291.

33. (19) Casey Mears, Ford, Engine, 291, $86,905.

34. (8) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 269, $133,966.

35. (17) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Accident, 268, $131,013.

36. (12) Carl Edwards, Ford, Engine, 264, $132,946.

37. (36) Scott Speed, Ford, Suspension, 196, $86,280.

38. (34) Jason Leffler, Toyota, Vibration, 77, $86,157.

39. (31) David Stremme, Toyota, Suspension, 54, $82,700.

40. (39) Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, Vibration, 43, $82,550.

41. (43) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Brakes, 32, $82,375.

42. (38) Reed Sorenson, Toyota, Overheating, 24, $82,280.

43. (37) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, Rear Gear, 22, $82,641.

RACE STATISTICS

Average Speed of Race Winner: 142.02 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 32 Mins, 45 Secs.

Margin of Victory: 0.378 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes: 18 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: T. Stewart 0; G. Biffle 1; T. Stewart 2-9; J. Gordon 10-15; Kyle Busch 16-34; D. Hamlin 35-40; Kyle Busch 41-81; D. Hamlin 82; K. Harvick 83-84; Kyle Busch 85-90; D. Hamlin 91-134; K. Harvick 135-173; D. Hamlin 174-176; K. Harvick 177-215; D. Hamlin 216-221; K. Harvick 222-242; D. Hamlin 243-281; M. Truex Jr. 282-321; D. Hamlin 322-327.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): D. Hamlin 7 times for 105 laps; K. Harvick 4 times for 101 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 66 laps; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 40 laps; T. Stewart 1 time for 8 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 6 laps; G. Biffle 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 12 in Points: G. Biffle – 879; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 871; M. Kenseth – 858; J. Johnson – 848; M. Truex Jr. – 838; B. Keselowski – 831; D. Hamlin – 822; C. Bowyer – 811; K. Harvick – 807; T. Stewart – 769; K. Kahne – 751; Kyle Busch – 746.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Monday, September 3 2012
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