After running out of fuel in the waning laps at Chicago, Denny Hamlin sent a tweet shortly after the race that said "This is 1 week of 10. We will win next week."
A prediction? A guarantee? A (wait for it) Ruthian calling of his shot? Not really the case, Hamlin said on Friday.
"It was really meant to be nothing more than just, 'Hey, we'll get them next week. We'll win it next week.' People were just taking it a little further than that, but I'm racing — doing the best I can — and that's all I'm going to do."
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Well, whatever it was, it turned out to be prophetic. Despite starting 28th in line after a poor qualifying run, Hamlin dominated on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to collect his fifth win of the season and close within seven points of Chase points leader Jimmie Johnson through two races.
New Hampshire's flat mile can be a tricky place to pass, but it wasn't for Hamlin early — or at any point during the race, for that matter. He blazed his way to the front of the field from the start, taking the lead on lap 94 and with the exception of pit strategy and green flag pit stop cycling, never relinquished it.
The race's only potential late drama attempted to build up with 28 laps to go, when a caution for debris flew, wiping out Hamlin's five second plus lead over Jimmie Johnson. None of the top seven cars pitted, and as the green flag flew with 23 laps to go, it was Johnson's chance to swipe the victory from Hamlin.
And, well, it wasn't even close. Hamlin started on the inside and immediately drove away from Johnson by multiple car lengths as the two exited turn two after the restart. That was as close as it got, as Hamlin continued to drive away for Joe Gibbs Racing's 100th Sprint Cup Series victory.
After he exited his car after an epic burnout, Hamlin got in a batting stance and pointed, a la Ruth in the 1932 World Series, apparently forgetting that he said he really didn't make a guarantee, but rather a statement, a week ago. What was certainly a strong statement though, was Hamlin's performance on Sunday.
"You don't want to sound too cocky but I knew what we were capable of," Hamlin said in victory lane. "Our car was extremely strong and I have a really good knack for this racetrack and the two together with a crew chief like Darian (Grubb), it's a winning combination."
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