|Hamlin: I told you so!|
After inexplicably running out of fuel on the final lap of last week’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Hamlin made a bold prediction, guaranteeing a victory one week hence at the Magic Mile.
Like Joe Namath in Super Bowl III, Hamlin backed up his words with actions Sunday, overcoming a tire-pressure miscue that saw him qualify 32nd to take the lead in just 93 laps. Once at the head of the pack, Hamlin was rarely headed, leading 100 of the remaining 207 laps – including the final 52 -- to claim a 2.675-second victory over runner-up Jimmie Johnson.
The victory was Hamlin's series-best fifth of the season and the 22nd of his Sprint Cup career, and marked only the sixth time a Chase race has been won by a driver starting 30th or worst. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has now won three of the last five races overall, and climbed to third in the championship standings, just seven behind leader Johnson.
Hamlin’s crew chief, Darian Grubb claimed his 10th victory in the last 38 races, and his sixth in the last 12 Chase races.
"You don't want to sound too cocky, but I knew what we were capable of," said Hamlin in an ESPN Victory Lane interview. "Our car was extremely strong and I have a really good knack for this racetrack. Those two, together with a crew chief like Darian is a good combination."
|Darien Grubb is on a serious roll|
"It don't hurt to have a little confidence in your team," said Hamlin of his called shot. "I know we made a couple of big mistakes over the last two weeks, but I said we were fast enough to make it up, and we were. I am going to have these guys' backs until they die on me. This is my team."
After a disastrous, 35th-place showing last weekend at Chicagoland, pole sitter Jeff Gordon finished third Sunday, followed by fellow Chasers Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart. Joey Logano, Brian Vickers and Ryan Newman completed the Top-10.
Johnson now leads Keselowski by one point while Hamlin is seven behind and Stewart 10 back. Kahne and Bowyer are tied for fifth, both 15 points behind, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. is seventh, followed by Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Gordon.
The driver winning the second Chase race has won the Sprint Cup Series Championship in each of the last three seasons
Photos: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR, Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR