Found September 03, 2012 on Fox Sports:
Intensity ramps up. Tension mounts. Second-guessing begins. But not for Denny Hamlin. The driver known to be hard on himself, to dissect past racing moments and to painfully relive the setbacks from time to time has been vanquished to the past. Nowadays a confident, renewed -- and on-fire -- version of Hamlin strides into the track. And into Victory Lane. Taking the checkered flag for the fourth time this season with a late rally Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, is Hamlin making a championship-sized statement to the competition? "I don't say anything -- wins are all that matter," he said shortly after his win. He's right. Perhaps NASCAR has a new closer. Hamlin not only masterfully steals the win in the final laps these days, but his back-to-back victories vault him into the top spot when the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins following next Saturday night's race at Richmond. Hamlin can now do no worse than end up in a mathematical tie for the points lead when the standings reset by virtue of his four wins. He's stepping up and taking command as those around him falter. Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart finished 22nd at Atlanta -- his best finish in three races and his fourth straight finish of 19th or worse. Jimmie Johnson crashed for his second unfinished race in the last three outings. The men trying to break into the field and battle him for the title are faring even worse. Ryan Newman crashed for the second consecutive race. Carl Edwards had an engine failure. Jeff Gordon ran well and was second Sunday, but that doesn't put him in the Chase yet. And Kyle Busch keeps trying to make a move, but falling off late. None of these wild-card contenders carries the kind of momentum that makes Hamlin take note, and they will battle for one last wild-card berth Saturday night as Kasey Kahne seems to have the first of the two slots in hand with his two victories. Instead, it is Hamlin grabbing the attention of the competition. Sunday night his team gambled on an alternate pit strategy that was foiled by a caution. Then it took command when Jamie McMurray crashed on the frontstretch to set up the final green-white-checker finish. The leaders pitted as everyone was close on fuel and Hamlin's team put him in front after the field entered pit road with Martin Truex Jr. in the lead. Throughout the night he'd been racing hard. He led often. He made up ground with fresh tires after returning to the track well behind the leader on those offset pit stops. But he just couldn't quite make the pass on those runs late in the race. He'd already led six times for 99 laps but this race was easily in the hands of Truex, who had led 40 laps and was more than two seconds ahead of Gordon when the caution came out. Then Hamlin, who was running third, took charge when his team got him off pit road ahead of the field. He then held off the charging Gordon to take his second consecutive win. And to take command of the title race. He also helped his teammate, as he kept Gordon from getting win No. 2 and moving past Busch into the final wild-card slot. "We realize, we've been doing this a long time, this is not easy, so you have to really appreciate the wins and enjoy them, and I think it lays a great foundation for the Chase, and I think Denny knew it, too, when he held off Jeff Gordon, he knew that gave Kyle a chance next week to clinch that Chase spot," team president J.D. Gibbs said. While Hamlin says that he needs a teammate in the Chase, the fact is that he might just enter it with yet another win instead. Perhaps making matters even worse for his fellow title contenders, the pre-Chase segment of the season closes out at Richmond, a track where Hamlin consistently runs well and has two wins. Will he continue to steamroll his way into the title-determining segment there? And how critical is this momentum -- and the lead -- once the Chase starts? While Hamlin celebrates it, drivers like Brad Keselowski, who finished third Sunday, work to downplay it. "I know the three wins we have, they just make you feel good and give you something to beat your chest about, but at the end of the day you still have to perform in the Chase and be consistent," Keselowski said after chasing Hamlin on Sunday. "He's in great standing . . . but he's going to have to fight just like everybody else in the Chase, and so are we." Hamlin's proven capable of doing just that. Throughout the season, he's enjoyed some stellar runs intermixed with setbacks (such as the two accidents, engine failure and suspension issue that sidelined him in races). Nowadays, he's enjoying more of the first. Suddenly, is looking like a title favorite. And he knows it. Can he close the deal this time? Hamlin came close before, but he dismisses the idea that this run might be haunted by the past. Dejected after finishing as runnerup in the Chase in 2010, he then struggled through the 2011 season. Hamlin no longer seems to carry the scars of his close call, though. These days, he's only looking forward. "In 2010 it was a pressure situation," he said. "You take those experiences and you being experienced is something that you can never take away, and it never hurts you. . . . I did an interview at the beginning of the year last year, and I said, 'Just put me back in that same situation any years down the road, and I promise I'll win the championship when we leave Homestead.' "All I can hope is that I get that opportunity again, and if I do, I'm going to live in the moment, and I'm going to focus everything I can do to win that race instead of worrying about the outcome. I'm going to have a lot more fun and enjoy it. This year the race at Homestead is on my birthday, so I can't think of a better present."

CUP: Hamlin Throws Caution To Wind In Atlanta

Denny Hamlin is the first four-time Sprint Cup winner…

Denny Hamlin Atlanta Media Transcript – Race Winner

THE MODERATOR:  We will get started with our winner’s press conference here following the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  We welcome driver Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota.  Denny won the AdvoCare 500 here tonight, his 21st victory, fourth victory of 2012, first victory here at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and clinched a spot in the Chase here prior...

Hamlin gets fourth win of 2012, first at Atlanta

Martin Truex looked to be on his way to his first win with Michael Waltrip Racing and his first-career win since 2007 in the AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night after taking the lead from Denny Hamlin with 44 laps to go. But it wasn’t to be. The yellow flag waved with five laps to go, setting the race up for a green-white-checker...

Denny Hamlin Wins Second Consecutive Sprint Cup Race, Edges Jeff Gordon at Atlanta

  Denny Hamlin did himself a favor -- and one for Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in the process. Outrunning Jeff Gordon on a two-lap dash to the finish in Sunday night's AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hamlin scored his second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, his series-best fourth of the season and the 21st of his career. Hamlin also preserved Busch...

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1. Jimmie Johnson  Denny Hamlin may be the hottest driver on the Cup circuit at the moment, but Johnson’s team will still be the one everyone...

Late Caution Helps Hamlin Win at Atlanta

Denny Hamlin brought home his second straight win Sunday Night in Atlanta after holding off Jeff Gordon in the final laps. Until the final caution flew with six laps to go, it looked like Martin Truex Jr was going to take home the win. After the pit stops during that caution, Denny Hamlin had become the new leader after beating Truex Jr off pit road. This is Hamlin’s fourth victory...

Final Chase spot still in question

It was certainly interesting to see that in the first two-thirds or three-fourths of Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway there were few cautions. That, once again, supports how awesome the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are right now. These guys can run the speed that they were running at a mile-and-a-half track that offers little or no grip, slipping and sliding around, and do...

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  Ladies and gentleman, the Chase field is nearly set after Sunday's Advocare 500. One wild card berth is still up for grabs between six drivers who remain eligible. The hopes of many (especially one Jeff Gordon) were dashed at Atlanta Motor Speedway, while others continued to position themselves well for a run at the 2012 Sprint Cup title. Who's up and who's down...
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