Hamlin benefits from late-race caution to win at Atlanta
September 3, 2012Eastern Indiana Sports
Hampton, GA (Sports Network) - Denny Hamlin easily clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by winning Sunday night's AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Hamlin beat Martin Truex Jr. out of the pits to take the lead during a caution in the closing laps. The caution, which came for an incident involving Jamie McMurray, set up a green-white-checkered finish.
After the final restart, Hamlin pulled away from the field, while Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski passed second-place runner Truex. Hamlin held off a last- lap challenge from Gordon, beating him to the finish line by 0.38 seconds for his Sprint Cup Series-leading fourth win of the season. He also won last weekend at Bristol.
"The pit crew won me the race," Hamlin said after claiming his 21st career win in NASCAR's premier series. "That's what a championship team is all about when you have all the pieces of the puzzle put together, and I think this year, we have it all."
Hamlin led a race-high 105 laps. His fourth win puts him in position to start the Chase in the first seed. The series will conclude its regular season next Saturday night at Richmond before the 10-race playoffs begin on Sept. 16 at Chicagoland.
"This is the one I wanted really bad," he said. "The last win (Bristol) was a big win, no doubt about it, but I've been really good here at Atlanta and not won it the past few years."
Keselowski finished third, while Truex placed fourth. Truex led for 40 laps before the sixth and final caution. He was attempting to end his 191-race winless streak. His first victory in the series came in June 2007 at Dover.