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September 23. 2012 10:33PM

Hamlin follows through on Twitter guarantee at NHMS


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin with his prize lobster in victory lane after the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Greg M. Cooper- US PRESSWIRE)


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin hoists the 1st place trophy after his win at Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Greg M. Cooper- US PRESSWIRE)


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11) celebrates in victory lane after winning the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE)

LOUDON -- Turns out, Joe Gibbs was not a big fan of Denny Hamlin taking to Twitter a week ago and declaring he was going to win the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But Gibbs, coach of the Washington Redskins in the National Football League before he turned to racing, sure enjoyed the way Hamlin — the new Denny Hamlin — backed up his boast on Sunday for a dominating win in Sunday's race.

“I had a throwback on that one,” Gibbs said of Hamlin's tweet assuring his fans that he intended to win the race.

Back to his days of the Redskins. Back to days of standing in his office window and watching reporters interview Redskins standout Dexter Manley.

“You knew Dexter was going to say something like, 'We're going to kill them,'” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said he'd be shaking his finger with the warning: “Don't you dare.”

It was just as well, Gibbs said, that he didn't hear of Hamlin's prediction until later in the week.

“Normally that one for me doesn't work out,” he said with a laugh.

Bottom line, though, Hamlin came through on his pledge and delivered win No. 100 for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization. The triumph moved Hamlin into third place in the Chase to the Sprint Cup championship behind new points leader Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.

Hamlin is seven points behind Johnson, six in back of Keselowski with the series headed to Dover International Speedway in Delaware next Sunday for the third race in the 10-event Chase.

Gibbs and crew chief Darian Grubb are especially excited about the new-look attitude and approach Hamlin brought into the season and has carried into the Chase.

Hamlin visited Concord on a promotional swing less than two weeks ago, the day before he went to Chicagoland for the start of the Chase and talked about how he had changed. Talked about how he was going to try and have fun in the Chase and be a little more relaxed. Said that if adversity arose, he would deal with it more calmly.

He's done exactly that the last two weeks.

On his last pit stop at Chicagoland, his gas man failed to get enough fuel in the tank and the car ran out of gas, costing Hamlin valuable points in the standings.

Not a problem, Hamlin said. We'll get 'em back at New Hampshire.

On Friday, a crew member sent Hamlin out with low air pressure in his tires for qualifying. The car was inadvertently set up in race trim, rather than for qualifying.

“For two weeks in a row we had two things happen on our race team, by really, two of our best people,” Gibbs said “I think the way Denny reacted both times was absolutely great. That means a lot to his team. And I think the way you handle things like that, being the guy that's wheeling the car, is a big deal.”

Gibbs was a little concerned at first on Friday, though.

“This week I turned around when we figured out kind of what we thought it might be in the pit area and Denny just grabbed the crew member in a headlock and was laughing with him,” Gibbs said. “I thought for a minute it was going to be a headlock and a punch, but it wasn't.”

With the old, more fiery Denny Hamlin, it might well have been.

Grubb appreciates the new Hamlin, too.

“It just shows the maturity level and how much he's changed from having the explosions in the past and the meltdowns,” Grubb said.

Fact of the matter is, Grubb wanted to see a change in the driver. Insisted on it pretty much

Grubb was the crew chief for Tony Stewart's run to the Sprint Cup championship last season, which also included a win in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire. But Grubb had been told he was being released from his position before the Chase ended.

At season's end, he was a free agent and looking into his options going forward.

He met with Hamlin about joining the team at Joe Gibbs Racing. Grubb told Hamlin he felt the driver needed to adjust his attitude and work better with his team.

“In the offseason he spent a lot of time with sports psychologists and went to Phoenix and kind of got his head right,” Grubb said. “He played golf and just relaxed and looked to see what he was missing.”

Based on an impressive Sylvania 300, and victories in three of the last five Cup races, it appears that what he found is working.
Allen Lessels covers motor sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at alessels@unionleader.com.

Sylvania 300 Results
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300
At New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon
Lap Length: 1.058 miles
1. (32) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 300 laps, 149.2 rating, 43.0 points, $273,166.
2. (20) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 300, 116.9, 42.0, $204,796.
3. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 300, 118.9, 41.0, $179,171.
4. (12) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 300, 112.6, 40.0, $141,074.
5. (6) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 300, 114.3, 39.0, $113,135.
6. (15) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 300, 97.4, 38.0, $135,780.
7. (3) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 300, 107.3, 37.0, $149,360.
8. (18) Joey Logano, Toyota, 300, 87.5, 36.0, $98,185.
9. (4) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 300, 90.8, 35.0, $94,985.
10. (8) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 300, 97.4, 34.0, $128,968.
11. (16) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 300, 98.2, 33.0, $132,421.
12. (7) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 300, 88.9, 32.0, $94,135.
13. (14) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 300, 82.3, 31.0, $92,185.
14. (25) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 300, 87.6, 30.0, $127,946.
15. (11) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 300, 79.3, 29.0, $121,560.
16. (22) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 300, 75.4, 28.0, $107,818.
17. (9) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 300, 89.6, 27.0, $108,499.
18. (13) Greg Biffle, Ford, 300, 80.1, 26.0, $89,235.
19. (5) Carl Edwards, Ford, 300, 73.1, 25.0, $123,126.
20. (17) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 299, 68.9, 24.0, $105,718.
21. (10) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 299, 65.9, 0.0, $121,010.
22. (24) Juan Montoya, Chevrolet, 299, 63.5, 22.0, $109,776.
23. (19) Aric Almirola, Ford, 298, 65.6, 21.0, $116,396.
24. (21) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 298, 59.4, 20.0, $107,068.
25. (23) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 298, 59.3, 19.0, $101,543.
26. (29) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 298, 58.7, 18.0, $109,593.
27. (28) Landon Cassill, Toyota, 298, 53.6, 17.0, $104,580.
28. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 298, 94.5, 16.0, $124,643.
29. (26) David Ragan, Ford, 297, 52.5, 15.0, $89,318.
30. (34) David Reutimann, Chevrolet, 296, 47.6, 14.0, $78,910.
31. (33) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 296, 49.9, 13.0, $94,257.
32. (37) David Gilliland, Ford, 296, 43.4, 12.0, $73,935.
33. (42) Mike Olsen, Ford, 287, 34.8, 11.0, $81,735.
34. (39) Stephen Leicht, Chev., Brakes, 151, 32.7, 10.0, $83,035.
35. (43) David Stremme, Toyt, Transmission, 145, 37.2, 9.0, $73,335.
36. (30) Casey Mears, Ford, Vibration, 100, 45.3, 8.0, $73,110.
37. (31) Michael McDowell, Ford, Vibration, 97, 38.1, 7.0, $72,905.
38. (27) Scott Speed, Ford, Suspension, 88, 30.1, 6.0, $72,678.
39. (36) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, Brakes, 78, 35.5, 0.0, $69,850.
40. (41) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 69, 31.9, 4.0, $69,700.
41. (40) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, Brakes, 29, 29.9, 3.0, $69,525.
42. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Brakes, 21, 30.0, 0.0, $69,400.
43. (38) Kelly Bires, Ford, 20, 27.8, 1.0, $69,767.
———
Race Statistics
Average Speed of Race Winner: 116.81 mph.
Time of Race: 2 hours, 43 minutes, 2 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 2.675 seconds.
Lead Changes: 17.
———
NASCAR Driver Rating Formula: A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race. The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.


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