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Hamlin wins delayed Pocono race

Having said on Friday that he expected to win the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, it turned out that Denny Hamlin was right, but not without a struggle - and not without a heavy heart.

Hamlin charged to the front from the sixth position with 13th laps left in Monday's rain-postponed race and ended a 50-race drought in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. However, after beating Juan Pablo Montoya to the chequered flag by 0.869 seconds, Hamlin wept in victory lane, overcome with emotion in the aftermath of the recent deaths of his grandmother, Thelma Clark, and the mother of tyre specialist Patrick Mullen at Joe Gibbs Racing.

“We've come close in a lot of races this year and come up short,” Hamlin, who led a race-high 91 laps, said afterwards, “We definitely had some angels with us today, as Patrick's mom passed away a couple weeks ago and my grandmother a few days ago.

“I was definitely driving aggressive out there, trying to do everything I could to get a win for them. It's emotional. We had a dominant car with two heavy souls in there today. I said, in my mind, that I wasn't going to settle for anything less than a win. With every corner I went in, that was 120 per cent.”

With the strongest car in the field car at the triangular 2.5-mile track, Hamlin passed Clint Bowyer for the lead coming off turn one on lap 191 of 200 and stayed in front the rest of the way. Montoya slipped past Bowyer for the second spot on lap 192, while Sam Hornish Jr, Kasey Kahne. Brian Vickers, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart completed the top ten.

Starting from the rear after going to a back-up car - the result of a wreck in Saturday's practice - Stewart rallied to salvage his ninth straight top-ten finish, but saw his string of top fives end at five. Nevertheless, the Cup points leader expanded his advantage in the standings to 197 over second-place Jimmie Johnson, who bounced back from a succession of problems to finish 13th.

Second place was also a tonic for Montoya, who had a dominant run the previous week at Indianapolis squelched by a pit-road speeding penalty. Good fortune in the pits helped the Colombian at Pocono, when Robby Gordon and David Stremme crashed in turn two moments after he and Hornish had made their final stops on lap 165.

When the rest of the contenders stopped under caution on two laps later, Montoya and Hornish stayed out, along with Bowyer and Scott Speed, who both had pitted on lap 158.

“Restarts made it interesting,” the Earnhardt-Ganassi driver admitted, “I told [the team] 'I think we have a car that can win the race' and I think the biggest thing was where the #11 was going to be. I thought I had a car fast enough to hold him off, but I got hit in the last restart, and he passed me.

“I don't know.... Ifs and buts out, my goal is making the Chase. That's the bigger picture. If I make the Chase, they won't remember this guy won the race, this one didn't. The #18 [of 16th-placed Kyle Busch] won three races this year.… you know what I mean? They won't be talking that he won three races [if he doesn't make the Chase].”

Busch gained a position to 13th in the standings at the expense of David Reutimann, who ran 29th after a bump from Hamlin sent him spinning down the frontstretch on lap 175, but still trails Greg Biffle by 101 points with five races left before the field for the Chase is set at Richmond. Biffle finished 15th on Monday, while Reutimann's disappointing result saw him drop to 16th in the points.

by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service


Tagged as: Denny Hamlin

Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin breaks a 50-race victory drought by winning the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Toyota, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Percision Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, race three-wide during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin in the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during practice for the 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, climbs into his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, lead the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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