Denny Hamlin scored his third win in the past five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and leapt to third in the standings. The winner of the second Chase race the last three years has gone on to win the championship – Jimmie Johnson did so in 2009 and 2010, and Tony Stewart a year ago.
The win is the 100th for Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing team as an entity in Sprint Cup, its first having come at the 1993 Daytona 500 with Dale Jarrett.
Hamlin led nearly two-thirds of the Sylvania 300 and backed up an earlier prognostication on his end that he'd go out and win this weekend.
“It doesn't hurt to have a little confidence in your team,” he said. “We were fast enough to make it up. I will have these guys back ‘til they die. I'm excited about everything right now.”
Hamlin beat home the Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and polesitter Jeff Gordon, with former New Hampshire race winner Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip Racing) fourth and Kasey Kahne (Hendrick) rounding out the top five.
Johnson's second successive runner-up finish has taken him to the lead of the standings, by one point over Chicago winner and sixth-place finisher Sunday Brad Keselowski. Hamlin is now third, seven back.
“We've left a few points on the table, but we're real happy,” Johnson said. “This track here, to beat our average finish is very impressive for the Chase. We need a good smart day next week.”
Third-placed Gordon closed two points on the overall lead and gained major ground on a number of Chasers in front of him, despite his crash in Chicago that dropped him 47 behind Keselowski.
“It's hard to gain on the 48, the 11, but it's a great effort,” Gordon said. “If not for Chicago we would have had back-to-back top fives.”
After Keselowski in sixth, Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Brian Vickers and Ryan Newman completed the top 10 finishers.
The Roush Fenway drivers had yet another average day, Matt Kenseth finishing only 14th with Greg Biffle four places behind him at the flag as the lowest finisher among Chase contenders.
Results - 300 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 2h43m02.000s
2. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.675s
3. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 4.980s
4. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 6.895s
5. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 7.393s
6. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 7.895s
7. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 8.661s
8. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 9.197s
9. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota + 9.758s
10. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 11.084s
11. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 11.482s
12. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 11.737s
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 12.413s
14. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 12.687s
15. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 14.652s
16. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 14.845s
17. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 15.299s
18. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 15.882s
19. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 19.021s
20. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 1 lap
21. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge + 1 lap
22. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 1 lap
23. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 2 laps
24. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 2 laps
25. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet + 2 laps
26. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 2 laps
27. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 2 laps
28. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 2 laps
29. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 3 laps
30. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet + 4 laps
31. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 4 laps
32. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 4 laps
33. Mike Olsen FAS Lane Ford + 11 laps
Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet 151 laps
David Stremme Inception Toyota 145 laps
Casey Mears Germain Ford 100 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 97 laps
Scott Speed Leavine Ford 88 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 78 laps
Tony Raines Baldwin Chevrolet 68 laps
JJ Yeley Max Q Chevrolet 29 laps
Reed Sorenson Humphrey Smith Chevrolet 21 laps
Kelly Bires Go Green Ford 20 laps