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Hamlin Captures Emotional Pocono Victory
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
LONG POND, Pa.— As it turned out, Denny Hamlin was right ... but not without a struggle, and not without a heavy heart.
Having said Friday that he expected to win the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, Hamlin charged to the front from the sixth position with 13th laps left in Monday’s rain-postponed race and ended a 50-race drought in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
After beating Juan Pablo Montoya to the checkered flag by .869 seconds, Hamlin wept in victory lane, overcome with emotion
in the aftermath of the recent deaths of his grandmother, Thelma Clark, and the mother of tire specialist Patrick Mullen at Joe
“We’ve come close in a lot of races this year and come up short,” said Hamlin, who led a race-high 91 laps. “Definitely
had some angels with us today. Patrick’s mom passed away—our tire guy—a couple weeks ago and my grandmother a few days ago.
“I was definitely driving aggressive out there, trying to do everything I could to get a win for them. It’s emotional. We had a dominant car with two heavy souls in our racecar today. I said in my mind that I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a win. With every corner I went in, that was 120 percent.”
With the strongest car in the field car at the 2.5-mile triangular track, Hamlin passed Clint Bowyer for the lead off Turn 1 on Lap 191 of 200 and stayed in front the rest of the way. Montoya slipped past Bowyer for the second spot on Lap 192.
Bowyer finished third, followed by Sam Hornish Jr. and Kasey Kahne. Brian Vickers, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart completed the top 10.
Starting from the rear after going to a backup car—the result of a wreck in Saturday’s practice—Stewart rallied to salvage his ninth straight top-10 finish but saw his string of top fives end at five. Nevertheless, the Cup points leader expanded his lead in the standings to 197 over second-place Jimmie Johnson, who bounced back from a succession of problems to finish 13th.
The second-place finish was a tonic for Montoya, who had a dominant run the previous week at Indianapolis squelched by a pit-road speeding penalty. Good fortune in the pits helped Montoya at Pocono, when Robby Gordon and David Stremme crashed off Turn 2 moments after Montoya and Hornish had made their final pit stops on Lap 165.
When the rest of the contenders stopped under caution on Lap 167, Montoya and Hornish stayed out, along with Bowyer and Scott Speed, who both had pitted on Lap 158.
“Restarts made it interesting,” Montoya said. “I told (the team), I think we have a car that can win the race. I think the biggest thing was where the 11 (Hamlin) was going to be. I thought I had a car fast enough to hold (off the) 11. I got hit in the last restart, and he passed me.
“I don’t know. Ifs and buts out, my goal is making the Chase. That’s the bigger picture. If I make the Chase, they won’t remember this guy won the race, this one didn’t. The 18 (16th-place finisher Kyle Busch) won three races this year. … You know what I mean? They won’t be talking that he won three races (if he doesn’t make the Chase).”
In fact, Busch gained a position to 13th in the standings at the expense of David Reutimann, who ran 29th after a bump from Hamlin sent him spinning down the frontstretch on Lap 175 (Reutimann fell three spots to 16th). But Busch trails Greg Biffle (15th Monday) by 101 points with five races left before the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set Sept. 12 at Richmond.
Unofficial Race Results click here
Unofficial Driver Point Standings click here
Race Recap Video click here
Rain Postpones Pennsylvania 500 to Monday
Persistent rain in the Pocono area caused a complete postponement of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race until Monday. The green flag
is scheduled to fly at 1:15 p.m. AT. TV coverage will start at 1 p.m. AT.
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500
Sunday, August 2 Monday, August 3
The Track: Pocono Raceway ( 2.5-mile triangle)
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200 laps/500 miles
TV: ESPN & TSN, 2 p.m. AT
Radio: MRN and Sirius Satellite
2008 Polesitter: Jimmie Johnson
2008 Winner: Carl Edwards
Schedule: (All times local ET) Friday – Practice, 12-1:30 p.m., Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday – Practice 10-10:45 a.m. and 11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.
Year-To-Date Results & Point Standings click here
Practice, Qualifying, Starting Lineup & More...
Tony Stewart will go to a backup car - and the rear of the field - to start Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 after scraping the wall
during Saturday's final practice session - in which Jimmie Johnson was fastest...
Saturday Final Practice Speed Chart click here
Tony Stewart laughs at the fuzzy dice on his mirror Friday at Pocono; qualifying was washed out so - as the current point leader -
Stewart will start on the pole Sunday...
Complete Starting Lineup click here
NASCAR officials head for the trailer after qualifying was washed out Friday afternoon at Pocono...
*Does not reflect adjustments that may be made prior to the race start because of the cars that need to go
to the rear of the field due to engine and/or transmission changes or practice wrecks...
- Race To The Chase, Week 5...The conclusion of Sunday’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 marks the fifth event in the 10-event “Race to the Chase” which leads into NASCAR’s playoffs, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Pocono Raceway was pivotal during the first half of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign, and more of the same can be expected Sunday.
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Old Spice Swagger Chevrolet) led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings upon arrival at and departure from Pocono in the series first appearance of the season in June.
Since that first Pocono race, three drivers have fallen outside the coveted top 12 in the 2009 point standings. They include Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota), Jeff Burton (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet), and David Reutimann (No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota).
Drivers who have moved into chase-eligible spots since completion of the first Pocono race of 2009 include Mark Martin (No. 5 Cheez-It/CARQUEST Chevrolet), Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) and Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet).
In addition, four drivers who appeared in the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup currently find themselves outside the top 12. They include Kyle Busch (now 14th), Clint Bowyer (No. 33 The Hartford Chevrolet) now 16th, Burton now 17th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) now 22nd.
They have been replaced in the current standings by Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, now fourth), Ryan Newman (No. 39 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet) now seventh, Martin, now ninth, and Montoya, now 10th.
There was one in-out swap in the Race to the Chase standings after last week’s event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Allstate 400 at The Brickyard. Due to his 38th-place finish, Kyle Busch moved from 10th to outside the top 12, to 14th. On the strength of his fourth-place Brickyard finish, Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford) moved from 13th in points to 11th.
Indianapolis winner Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) moved from third to second place in the standings after his third win of the season, dropping Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) to third in points.
Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) is on the “bubble” points position of 12th entering the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono, 68 points ahead of 13th place Reutimann.
In June’s Pocono 500, Stewart won the event after talking the lead from Gordon on Lap 164, then held on for a 2.004-second margin of victory over Carl Edwards (No. 99 AFLAC Ford).
- Next Goal For Stewart, A Pocono Season Sweep As A Driver/Owner...Owners have swept Pocono Raceway’s Victory Lane in single seasons, and so have drivers. But no owner/driver has produced a single season sweep at Pocono Raceway.
Tony Stewart, winner of June’s Pocono 500, is halfway to that unlikely goal.
Drivers who have swept both Pocono victories in a single season include Bobby Allison (1982, DiGard), Bill Elliott (1985, Melling). Tim Richmond (1986, Hendrick), Bobby Labonte (1999, Gibbs), Jimmie Johnson (2004, Hendrick) and Denny Hamlin (2006, Gibbs).
Other owners have swept Pocono with different drivers. They include Jack Roush (2005, Carl Edwards & Kurt Busch) and Roger Penske (2000, Jeremy Mayfield & Rusty Wallace).
One owner/driver, Darrell Waltrip, posted wins in consecutive seasons at Pocono over the 1991 and 1992 seasons. Over those same two seasons, owner/driver Alan Kulwicki recorded the same feat at Bristol Motor Speedway’s half-mile.
Stewart can go those two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion drivers one better this week if he can repeat at Pocono as an owner/driver.
If Ryan Newman wins Sunday, Stewart joins Roush and Penske in an owner’s sweep.
Stewart’s June win at Pocono was his first points-race win as an owner/driver and the first for an owner/driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since Ricky Rudd in 1998.
- Pocono A Career-Long Puzzle For Martin...Mark Martin’s four wins so far in 2009 have brought his career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win total to 39.
But Pocono is one of five series tracks where Martin hasn’t won. The good news? He’s placed as high as second six times, most recently in 2004. Still, Martin’s Pocono win record stands at 0-45.
Martin has a pretty good trend going in 2009. He broke through for his first win in eight attempts at Chicagoland Speedway on July 11, and posted an Indianapolis-best finish of second place last Sunday.
Other tracks where Martin has yet to win: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (0-24); Daytona International Speedway (0-48); and Homestead-Miami Speedway (0-9).
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