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Hamlin delivers with dominant display

"It was a huge day for us," Joe Gibbs admitted. "Bobby Labonte came into victory circle and I appreciated Bobby, Dale Jarrett, Jimmy Makar, everybody when he first started, Tony - so it took a lot of people down the road. But, certainly, gosh, think back on my 21 years: just doesn't seem like it was that long ago and you realize that we've got a hundred wins. That was a huge deal for us."

He'd been especially impressed with the way that Denny Hamlin had led the team through a couple of weeks of self-inflicted mishaps that could have led other drivers to brood, but which Hamlin had reacted by galvanising the team with his public prediction of winning at New Hampshire .

"I really appreciate the way he handles everything," said Gibbs. "For two weeks in a row, we had two things happen on our race team that really [set us back] and I think the way Denny reacted both times was just absolutely great, I think that meant a lot to his team.

"The way you handle things like that, being the guy that's wheeling the car, I think is a big deal," Gibbs explained. "Last week, he was real relaxed afterwards and that person took it real hard. This week, I turned around when we figured out kind of what we thought [the qualifying error] might be in the pit area and Denny just grabbed the crew member in a headlock and was laughing with him like that. I thought for a minute it was going to be a headlock and a punch, but it wasn't!"

Johnson was content with second place in the circumstances. "We had a great race car, just not an amazing car like the #11 had," he admitted. "We were best in class today; did a great job. We really expected the #11 to be tough here today, and he was."

Johnson's Hendrick team mate Jeff Gordon managed to supplant Clint Bowyer for third place, but despite this strong showing after the disaster of last week's Chicago outing for the four-time champion, it's done almost nothing for Gordon's Chase hopes simply because so many of his rival contenders also finished up near the front.

"We gained a lot on a lot of guys - it's going to be tough to gain on guys like the #48 and the #2, certainly today nobody was going to gain on that #11," said Gordon. "It is one at a time. There is no doubt we can get ourselves back into this. We're a strong team, with fast race cars. We just have to consistently put those results together that we're capable of, and who knows where we can get to in the points."

Another Hendrick driver, Kasey Kahne, finished in fifth with Penske Racing's Keselowski in sixth, while Tony Stewart followed behind in seventh ahead of the first of the non-Chase runners Joey Logano and Brian Vickers in eighth and ninth respectively. Kevin Harvick ended up a respectable 11th place and Earnhardt Jr. managed to fight back to pip Mat Kenseth for 13th place.

Martin Truex Jr. fell back to a disappointing 17th place after running so strongly early in the race, putting him just ahead of Greg Biffle who ended up the lowest of the Chase contenders at Loudon.

"We were just battling overall grip," said Biffle of his own afternoon's endeavours. "Our car just didn't have any grip right when we unloaded off the truck and never fixed it. We were way loose in the corner and had no rear grip. We chattered the front tires. We chattered the rear tires. There at the end we chattered all four, so it was just back and forth with all four tires chattering but no grip at all."




Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 23, 2012 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 23, 2012 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished ninth and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Great Stuff Chevrolet SS, finished 28th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and his team celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Doublemint Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualified for seventh position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Busch is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualified for sixth position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Johnson is seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, qualified for second position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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