Hamlin Holds Off Gordon For First Win In 2007

LOUDON, N. H. — For the better part of this season, Denny Hamlin and his pit crew have struggled to prevent one or the other from making a mistake.

Sunday, at New Hampshire International Speedway, things came together for both and Hamlin held off a charging Jeff Gordon to win the LENOX Industrial Tools 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race.

Hamlin, who had not led a lap all day and had not won a race this season, took advantage of his pit crew’s work to win the 300-lap event before a capacity crowd.

His crew put him back on the track first when a caution fell with 256 laps, prompting a final stop for the closely-matched field. He stayed there the rest of the way but it took every ounce of driving skill Hamlin could muster to hold off the determined Gordon.

NASCAR?s former champion, racing without his regular crew chief, drove the final laps like a man possessed and might have overtaken Hamlin had the race not ended when it did.

Trailing Gordon was Martin Truex Jr., the hottest driver on the circuit in recent events.

Truex’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., was fourth and Gordon?s teammate Jimmie Johnson, also without his regular crew chief, finished fifth.

Crew chiefs Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus were suspended for rules violations on NASCAR?s new car prior to the race in California last week. Both Letarte and Knaus were suspended for six races, fined $100,000 each and placed on probation until the end of the year.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Jeff Green, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.

Kyle Busch was 11th and Tony Stewart 12th.

Carl Edwards, one of the race leaders and a potential winner, saw his hopes erased when a faulty jack during a pit stop cost him two laps.

Ward Burton?s bad luck continued as his Chevy spewed smoke coming out of turn four on the third lap. He drove straight to the garage and the starting field circled this one-mile track under caution for the first time on a cool, overcast New England afternoon.

Gordon needed only 25 laps to make his way from eighth to second behind pole winner Dave Blaney. On the 30th lap, the four-time champion pushed his Chevrolet past Blaney’s Toyota for the lead.

The elder Busch brother, Kurt, maintained third with Reed Sorensen and Earnhardt Jr. right behind.

After several more laps, Blaney continued to slip back. At 60 laps, Blaney was 13th.

Gordon held a 2.7-second lead over Earnhardt, with Busch third, then Sorensen, Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Edwards and Truex.

Earnhardt took the lead after the pit stops for fuel and was still in front when the second caution of the day came out on lap 96 for debris.

Busch came out of the pits first, Johnson was next and Earnhardt was third.

Earnhardt brought the crowd of more than 100,000 fans to its feet when he charged past Busch for the lead on lap 105.

Another caution slowed the field on lap 126. On the restart, Johnson led a few laps before Kyle Busch and Earnhardt passed him. There was plenty of action behind the frontrunners with veteran Jeff Burton and Earnhardt teammate Truex racing their way into the top six spots.

At the halfway point (150 laps), the top 10 included: Kyle Busch, Earnhardt, Edwards, Johnson, Truex, Burton, Gordon, Hamlin, Stewart and Harvick, with Juan Pablo Montoya 11th.

Share Button