Denny Hamlin was dominant in Sunday’s NASCAR race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading 193 of 300 laps in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota en route to a series-leading fifth victory of the 2012 season in Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The Virginia native sliced through the field from his 32nd-place starting position to take the lead for the first time on Lap 94, and could not be challenged on a late-race restart to pull away from runner-up Jimmie Johnson to the checkered flag.
Hamlin and the #11 team were the class of the field throughout the weekend at the one-mile oval, leading all three practice sessions. However, a miscue in tire pressures for qualifying put Hamlin deep in the field on the starting grid. It didn’t take long for Hamlin to work his way to the front, driving all the way to 12th by the first caution at Lap 40. Once he took the lead, the only scare came when a piece of plastic stuck to the grille of the #11 machine, causing water and oil temperatures to rise. Hamlin was able to clear the debris by pulling up behind Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Kyle Busch. The victory is the 22nd of Hamlin’s career and 100th for JGR, and moved Hamlin up one spot to third in the Chase standings following New Hampshire, seven markers behind leader Johnson after two of 10 playoff races.
Dover Preview: The Series heads to Dover International Speedway for Sunday’s 400-lap event at the ‘Monster Mile.’ Hamlin is making his 14th-career start at Dover this weekend, and he started 10th and finished 18th at the track in June’s FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks. Hamlin holds a pair of top-five finishes at Dover, fourth-place results in June 2007 and May 2010. Hamlin was victorious in NASCAR’s most recent race on a concrete surface, at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August.
How is your mindset heading into Dover this weekend? “Well, I’m going to be optimistic when I go there. Darian (Grubb) and the team have been working on that race track for quite a long time the last few weeks, working on a setup that would make me comfortable on that race track. The car is going to be good. I just have to have an open mind when I get out there for the first green flag run and have faith that I can do it. I’ll be leaning on my teammates quite a bit this weekend. Obviously they are both very good at that track.”