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Hamlin Wins Rain-Delayed Pocono Cup Race

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, August 3 2009
Denny Hamlin ran away late to win the rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway on Monday. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin ran away late to win the rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway on Monday. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Denny Hamlin bumped his way past Clint Bowyer to grab the lead with 10 laps to go in the Sprint Cup Race at Pocono Raceway Monday afternoon and then held off Juan Pablo Montoya to get his first victory of the season.

Montoya hung on to finish second and make up a bundle of the points he lost a week ago when he was penalized for speeding on pit road while leading the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis.

Bowyer finished third to help his chances of making his third straight Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

The victory was the first in 50 races for Hamlin, who jumped to fifth in points. The last victory for Hamlin came at Martinsville last spring.

Hamlin now has five victories in the Cup series. Three have come at Pocono.

None of the other victories at the big triangle could have been more emotional for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and his team.

“We’ve come close in a lot of races this year and come up short,” Hamlin said. “Definitely had some angels with us today. Patrick’s (Mullen, tire specialist) mom passed away, our tire guy, a couple weeks ago and my grandmother (Thelma Clark) a few days ago. I’d like to thank everyone at FedEx and Toyota and WileX and Gillette and Coke and everyone that has supported this deal. It’s been a long time coming.”

J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR, joked that he would lobby for more races to be held at Pocono.

Then he got serious.

“It worked well for us,” Gibbs said. “It was an emotional race for us across the board. We came so close so many times but something bit us, and we’d come up short. That meant a lot for the guys. For Denny (Hamlin), this weekend, losing his grandmother, another guy losing his mom, it was just a real emotional” win.

Sam Hornish finished fourth and Kasey Kahne fifth.

Perhaps the biggest loser on Monday was Pocono’s reputation as the place where good racing goes to die.

The racing was wild. Really wild, Jef Gordon said.

“Oh, I can’t even explain to you how insane it was out there,” Gordon said. “And when you get guys that have no tires that have stayed out, or two tires, against guys that have four tires, it just shakes it up so much because you’ve got such a speed difference and guys trying to hang on to position and guys fighting hard to get ’em and I mean it was just nuts. I saw so many guys rubbing, banging, smokin’ sideways, three-wide, four-wide, and I was right in the middle of it at times as well.

“It’s not the most fun, but when you make it out of it, you’re like whew, and you know it’s awesome racing to watch on TV and from the grandstands.”

Points-leader Tony Stewart, who crashed in practice and was driving a backup car on Monday, came from the back of the pack at the beginning of the race to finish 10th.

“We made the best of a bad situation that I put us in on Saturday morning,” Stewart said.

The guy behind him in the standings, Jimmie Johnson, overcame the need to change carburetors and spark plugs and being three laps down, to finish 13th.

“We dealt with a lot today,” Johnson said. “I have to thank my guys for working so hard and trouble-shooting some different things. We finally found the problem there at the end. We were three laps down and able to get some cautions there at the end. For a while there I thought we would get a Top-10 but I pounded the wall off (Turn) 2 and tore up the right side of the car and lost a couple of spots. Just a lot of fight in this race team. I’m very proud of them.”

Stewart now holds a 197-point lead over Johnson and a 199-point lead over third-place Gordon.

Montoya moved up two spots – front 10th to eighth – in his bid to make his first Chase, which is now just five races away.

In the battle for the 12 Chase berths, Kyle Busch moved up one spot to 13th with a 16th-place finish. He trails Greg Biffle by 101 points heading to next weekend’s road race at Watkins Glen.

Brian Vickers moved to 14th place, 104 behind Biffle, by finishing sixth.

Bowyer’s third-place finish Monday puts him 15th, 115 behind Biffle.

“It’s a long road to go yet but I feel like we can do it,” Bowyer said of making the Chase. “We’ve got some good tracks coming up.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, August 3 2009
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