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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.



Related Pictures

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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]
Kevin Harvick in action. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Slim Jim/Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Slim Jim/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Slim Jim/Menards Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Slim Jim/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, qualified eighth Friday, June 6, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Earnhardt, Jr. is fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, qualified fifth Friday, June 6, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS (right) qualified fourth and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Wix Filters Chevrolet SS (left) qualified fifteenth Friday, June 6, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Harvick is is twelfth, Newman is eleventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, will start on the front row Sunday, June 8, 2014 for the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Busch missed the pole position Friday by 2/1000`s of a second. He is 27th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 6, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 6, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)

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