The second race in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup is in the books.
On Sunday afternoon, Chase driver, Denny Hamlin captured the checkered flag in dominating fashion. Hamlin, who started 32nd after a qualifying mishap, charged his way to the front in his No. 11 FedEx Toyota and took the lead on 93 and never looked back.
The highlight of the race wasn’t a wreck or a horrible pit stop by a crew, it was the celebrated burnout down the front stretch of the 1.058-mile oval. Hamlin then brought his No. 11 Toyota to a stop on the granite stripe at the finish line and climbed out of his car. He then took a batter’s stance, a la David Papi, called his shot, and knocked an imaginary home run over the catch fence.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a little confidence in your team,” Hamlin said. “I know we’ve made a couple of big mistakes over the last two weeks. I said we were fast enough to make it up, and we were. This is my team, and I’m excited about everything. These are lightning-fast race cars these guys are giving me.”
With the win at New Hampshire, Denny Hamlin moved up one spot to third in the points standings; just 7 points behind new points leader, Jimmie Johnson.
Eight of the 12 Chase contenders finished in the top-eleven. In this weekly segment, Total Sports Blog, will rewind the race from the day before and let you know where all the Chase contenders finished and where they are in the point standings.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie Johnson started the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet in 20th spot, led just two laps, and was able to edge the third place finisher, Jeff Gordon. While Johnson is now leading the Chase for the Sprint Cup points standings, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate is still in 12th place, just 45 points out of first.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer started the race in 12th and finished in fourth. He moved from 12th to eighth on the first lap and into the top five by lap 15. At one point he climbed as high as second, but never was able to lead a lap. Bowyer didn’t gain or lose any spots in the point standings. He is still sixth in the Chase just 15 points out of the lead.
Kasey Kahne- Kahne is still fifth in points, just 15 out of the lead. Kahne started the Sylvania 300 from the sixth position and climbed as high as second during the race. He would finish fifth
Brad Keselowski- After winning in Chicago last weekend, Keselowski came to New Hampshire first in the point standings but wouldn’t leave there. Keselowski would finish sixth, and is now second in the standings; just one behind behind Johnson. Keselowski is definitely keeping himself and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge within striking distance.
The last driver to win this race, Tony Stewart, went on to win the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Could this be said for Denny Hamlin soon? Stewart finished seventh in Sunday’s race, which gave him his 14th top-10 finish of the season. Stewart dropped one spot this week in the point standings. He is now fourth, just 10 points behind Johnson.
Kevin Harvick- It was an uneventful day for the driver of the Budweiser Chevrolet. He was in ESPN in-race reporter, but with no action on the track, wasn’t talk to much. Harvick started 16th on Sunday and would finish eleventh. He is now up two spots(from 10th to 8th) in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, just 31 points out of first.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Earnhardt struggled to gain track postion most of the day and at one point was about to be lapped when the caution flag came out on Lap 128. He started 14th on Sunday and would finish 13th. Junior is still seventh in the point standings, just 26 points shy from first.
Matt Kenseth- Kenseth was the highest finisher in the Roush-Fenway Racing stable in 14th, just four sports above teammate, Greg Biffle. Neither of the drivers changed positions in the standings. Kenseth is still in 11th place, just 35 points out of first; while Biffle is in ninth, just 33 points away.
Martin Truex, Jr- The race wasn’t what many expected for Truex, who considers NHMS his “home track”. Truex started ninth and would finish 17th on Sunday. At one point he was as high as fourth, but that was early in the race. Truex battled a tight handling car for a majority of the race. He is now 10th in points, just 34 points out.
The next race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, is Sunday, September 30th, at Dover International Speedway. Drivers will compete in the AAA 400 in the third race for the Chase.