Hamlin wins at New Hampshire

Jimmie Johnson takes points lead

Published On: Sep 23 2012 05:39:48 PM EDT
LOUDON, N.H. -

Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR race at New Hampshire on Sunday, getting the mistake-free trip he needed to win for the series-leading fifth time this year.

Jimmie Johnson finished second and took the lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Jeff Gordon was third.

Hamlin's crew avoided the mistakes that dogged them during a tire change here in July and in Chicago last week, when he ran out of gas. On Friday, Hamlin had another setback when his crew had the wrong pressure in his tires and he qualified 32nd.

Quickly moving up in the field, Hamlin took the lead for the first time on the 94th lap and led for 193 laps in all, getting some help when teammate Kyle Busch slowed down to help suck some debris off the front of Hamlin's car.

Hamlin led for 150 laps here in July before a miscommunication with crew chief Darian Grubb over whether to change two tires or four left him mired in traffic. He drove his way back into the front of the field before finishing second to Kasey Kahne.

Hamlin's four regular-season victories put in him front of the points race when the field was reset. But in the Chase opener in Chicago last week, he finished 16th after his Joe Gibbs Racing crew failed to fill up his tank on the final pit stop.

Hamlin tried to brush off the disappointment, saying on Twitter, "We will win next week." And though he later backtracked and said it was an expression of confidence but not a guarantee, he backed up the tweet with a dominating weekend.

He was the fastest in practice Friday. But when he went out for qualifying his crew had the wrong pressure in his tires and he wound up 32nd.

He again was the fastest in Saturday's practice, and Sunday was more of the same.

Hamlin started 28th after penalized cars dropped to the back of the field before the green flag. He took the lead in the 94th lap and relinquished it only during pit stops.

With about one-third of the race to go, Hamlin sucked what appeared to be a plastic bag onto the air intake on the front of his car. Busch, who had blown a cylinder and is not a part of the Chase, slowed down to allow his teammate to come up behind him.

The tubulence between the cars blew the debris off, and Hamlin was back on his way.

Hamlin also won in New Hampshire in 2007. He has finished in the top three in five of the past seven races here.