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Rookie Hamlin takes Pocono victory.

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.



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Denny Hamlin. [Pic Credit Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images]
Kurt Busch with Penske Racing crew-chief Roy McCauley at Daytona. [Pic Credit Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images]
Tony Stewart - Home Depot/Joe Gibbs Chevrolet    [pic credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images]
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Axalta `We Paint Winners` 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 5, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin drives the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota after reparing the roof flap during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 25, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Ditech Chevrolet, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 27, 2015 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, races Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 27, 2015 in Loudon, New Hampshire (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, adds his name to the contender list after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20, 2015 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20, 2015 in Joliet, Illinois (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20, 2015 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20, 2015 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, crosses the finish-line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20, 2015 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20, 2015 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy/American Heritage Chocolate Toyota, lead a pack of cars into turn one during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 12, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 12, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
(Back row L-R) Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 ARRIS Toyota, Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Libman/Menards Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 3M Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, (front row L-R) Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Cessna Chevrolet, Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy/American Heritage Chocolate Toyota, Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, pose for a photo after making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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