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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]
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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag ahead of Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, poses with the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/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)
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)

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