Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Denny Hamlin became the second rookie in as many years to win at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway with a stirring come from behind drive in Sunday's Pocono 500.

Polesitter Hamlin dominated the opening quarter of the 200-lap race, building a lead of more than seven seconds before a left rear puncture at nearly 200mph sent him spiralling through the infield grass at the treacherous tunnel turn.

With the left rear corner of his #11 FedEx Chevrolet destroyed, his Joe Gibbs Racing crew set about making repairs while at the same time keeping their driver on the lead lap and while they managed to achieve that goal despite nearly a dozen extra pitstops, it left Hamlin as low as 40th in the running order.

Hamlin's rise through the field was stunning, assisted by a 70 lap green flag stretch between laps 70 and 140 that encapsulated two rounds of green flag pitstops. Those stops saw a number of the leading contenders strike difficulties allowing Hamlin to gain bundles of track position.

By lap 110 Hamlin was back in the top ten and had risen to fifth within a further ten laps. Making swift work of Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch moved Hamlin into second spot by lap 160 and shortly before the final round of stops (also held under green flag conditions) he passed Greg Biffle for the lead.

By the time the order had cycled around at the conclusion of the pitstops Hamlin enjoyed a healthy three second lead, which he continually extended until the seventh and final caution period of the afternoon waved with eleven laps remaining when a brake-less Jeff Gordon crashed hard into the outside wall in turn one.

Race officials decided to throw the red flag in order to clear the extensive debris left by Gordon's wreck, eventually leaving Hamlin with a five lap sprint to the finish.

Aiding the rookies cause was the fact that Biffle suffered a tyre failure after running over Gordon's debris and had to pit, as did several other lead lap cars, which left Hamlin's fellow front row starter Busch as his nearest competition. Busch's car wasn't as strong as Biffle's and so it proved when the green flag waved as Hamlin accelerated away into the distance to record his first points paying Nextel Cup victory and moved into the top ten in points in the process.

Busch's second place helped steady a patchy season while third place for Stewart was just reward for a heroic drive from the still injured defending series champion.

Brian Vickers was one of many drivers who had the chance to win but let it slip in the pits for having taken the lead on lap 75 the driver of the #25 Hendrick Chevrolet was caught speeding coming off pit road some 20 laps later and had to serve a drive through penalty. Despite that Vickers recovered to finish fourth with Matt Kenseth fifth and gaining more ground of series leader Jimmie Johnson, who was also served with a penalty for speeding and finished tenth.

Biffle recovered to finish sixth, capping an afternoon that started with his own set of brake problems that shuffled him back to 30th in the early going while Kasey Kahne came back not only from a puncture but also a pit stop mishap when he tried to leave the pits before the jack had been removed from under his car to finish seventh.

Scott Riggs began the day by tapping Casey Mears into the turn one wall on lap two but ended it with a solid eighth place finish, one spot ahead of Jeff Burton, who also had to serve a penalty for speeding.

Other performances of note came from Bobby Labonte in the #43 Petty Enterprises Dodge, who recovered from a puncture to take 12th place, JJ Yeley who slapped the wall and blew a tyre but came back to 15th and Travis Kvapil, who was nearly caught up in the lap two Riggs/Mears clash and rallied back to 19th.

Others were less fortunate, namely defending Pocono 500 winner Carl Edwards who stormed up the order from 40th on the grid to tenth inside the opening 40 laps only to lose it all when his car slipped off the jack during a green flag pitstop and dropped him back to 37th. Try as he might to get the lucky dog free pass he couldn't, leaving the #99 Ford a disconsolate 25th at the flag.

In addition to Gordon and Mears, who were both unhurt after their hard crashes, Kyle Petty also exited the race after a crash while mechanical maladies accounted for Sterling Marlin, Mike Garvey, Terry Labonte and Jeff Green.