“You don’t want to sound too cocky, but I knew what we were capable of,” Hamlin said.
Fast forward a week and the Sprint Cup Series paid a visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for Sunday’s Sylvania 300.
Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team got the NHMS race weekend off to a winning start by putting up the fastest lap in the first practice session on Friday, but Hamlin’s guarantee looked to hit at least a slight snag later that day when his crew missed the tire air pressures on the car, resulting in Hamlin qualifying a lackluster 32nd.
After the poor qualifying run, Hamlin set a goal to make his way into the top-10 of the running order by lap 100 of the 100-lap race.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a little confidence in your team,” Hamlin said.
After drivers including Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch led the opening laps of the event, Hamlin far exceeded his own expectations. He was not only in the top-10 by lap 100, he was leading the race. Hamlin made his way up to the top-five by lap 59 and took the lead from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Busch on lap 94.
“These are lightning-fast cars that they’re giving me,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin dominated from there and went on to claim his fifth win of the season and the 100th win all-time for Joe Gibbs Racing.
After Hamlin took the lead from his teammate, Busch ran second for awhile after leading 48 laps. He fell back, though, and out of contention around lap 164 when he reported dropping a cylinder in his No. 18 car.
After Busch fell back, Jimmie Johnson took over as the best of the rest and went on to finish in the second spot. With the second-place finish, Johnson moved into the championship points lead, with a one-point advantage over previous points leader Brad Keselowski, who finished the race in the sixth position.
“We’re the next best car,” Johnson said. “Finished second.”
Johnson wasn’t the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to finish in the top-five. Fellow-HMS drivers Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne finished third and fifth. The lone Hendrick driver outside the top-10 of the finishing order was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 13th.
Clint Bowyer finished fourth.
With the win, Hamlin stands third in points, seven points behind new leader Johnson.
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