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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)
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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/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)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane with team owner Dale Earnhardt jr. after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship after the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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