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Denny Hamlin stamps himself a championship contender at Pocono


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Denny Hamlin stamps himself a championship contender at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. | Denny Hamlin had sufficient pace In his Toyota, sufficient confidence in his crew chief, and simply sufficient gasoline to achieve the end line. Hamlin received the win Sunday at Pocono Raceway — his fifth at the tri-oval observe nestled within the mountains — however a lot extra might be on the horizon.

At 38, Hamlin is having the most effective seasons of his profession for Joe Gibbs Racing. He has a Daytona 500 victory, and two different wins and simply perhaps, his finest shot at a NASCAR Cup Series championship since he fell quick in 2014.

“I feel as long as we keep putting the effort in what we’re doing, I have as good a shot as any,” Hamlin mentioned.

The Cup championship has eluded Hamlin however not a lot else has over a incredible profession that took off as a rookie in 2006 when he swept two Pocono races. He gained two straight races at Pocono over the 2009 and 2010 seasons, however usually struggled in recent times to noticeably compete for a win on the tri-oval observe.

He wanted a little bit of every thing to go proper over the ultimate laps Sunday to reverse his fortune and win for the primary time since March in Texas. Hamlin needed to clear JGR teammates Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr., then needed to preserve gasoline within the No. 11 for when he wanted it on two late restarts, together with the ultimate one in extra time.



Hamlin is coming off his first full winless season of his profession and cut up with crew chief Michael Wheeler, with JGR giving the reigns to Chris Gabehart. Hamlin mentioned he has full religion within the first-year Cup crew chief and adopted his directives on gasoline. Gabehart made all the proper calls atop the pit field.

“I just let him go, get the lead,” Gabehart mentioned. “Then as soon as he got out front, I pulled the reins on him, started putting some in the bank.”

That was sufficient for Hamlin.

“Win or lose, he comes up with the plays, and I’m the one that needs to execute it,” Hamlin mentioned. “When he said, ‘OK, I need two positions on this restart,’ I got to go get two positions. He’s really done a good job of knowing what it takes to win in the Cup Series in his rookie season. I mean, he’s going to be around for a very long time.”

Hamlin’s three wins are essentially the most since he gained 5 in 2012 and his 10 top-10 finishes match his complete from final season. His 34th profession win in Cup helped lead a 1-2-Three cost for JGR: Jones, who wanted a win to safe a spot within the playoffs, was second and Truex third. Hamlin additionally erased among the sting from his near-miss final week at New Hampshire when Kevin Harvick caught him late for the win.

With the leaders operating low on gasoline, Hamlin had sufficient left to get a good soar off two late restarts that made the distinction. Hamlin seemingly had the race gained in regulation when he took the lead off a restart with 4 laps to go after Kurt Busch slammed into the wall to deliver out one other warning. Hamlin, Jones and Truex made it a 1-2-Three operating order for JGR because the race headed into OT. That’s the way in which it shook out after three further laps, and on Sunday, Hamlin had the proper mixture to attain his third straight top-five end.

“We’re running our best right now,” Hamlin mentioned. “There’s no doubt about it.”

William Bryon was fourth, and Kyle Larson completed fifth.

Here’s what else occurred at Pocono.

JOHNSON FOR THE WIN

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson nonetheless hasn’t gained a race since June 4, 2017, at Dover, however he did win the second stage of the Pocono race. Johnson gained a stage from the primary time this season and solely the second within the three seasons since NASCAR carried out the manufactured breaks. He completed 15th.

LAST TIME

Pocono held its remaining July race for the foreseeable future. The observe has held two NASCAR Cup weekends since 1982, however will transfer to 1 race weekend subsequent season. NASCAR will run two Cup races at Pocono on the identical weekend, one Saturday and one Sunday, each anticipated to run round 350 miles.

REMEMBERING HARRISON

Pocono followers raised their glasses on the 11th lap to toast the reminiscence of Nick Harrison, a standard crew chief who died final weekend in his sleep after the Xfinity Series race. He was the crew chief of the No. 11 automobile.

UP NEXT

The sequence shifts to Watkins Glen had been Chase Elliott scored his first profession Cup win final season. Elliott’s race at Pocono ended early due to a blown proper tire that despatched the No. 9 Chevrolet into the wall.

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