By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
LOUDON, N.H. -- Shades of Dexter Manley.
Team owner Joe Gibbs was just as glad he didn't learn of driver Denny Hamlin's brazen prediction of a New Hampshire victory until later in the week.
After running out of fuel and finishing 16th with a top-five car in last Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland, Hamlin promised his Twitter followers "We will win next week."
That's the kind of statement that reminded Gibbs of the braggadocio of one of his former Redskins linemen, outspoken Dexter Manley.
"I had a throwback on that one," Gibbs said. "You knew Dexter was going to say something like, 'We're going to kill 'em,' or something -- you know what I mean.
"And I would be going like this, 'Don't you dare.' I'm glad I didn't hear about (Hamlin's promise) until later on, because, normally, that one for me doesn't work out."
But Hamlin delivered in Sunday's Sylvania 300, giving Gibbs his 100th victory in the Cup series.
Though he never had a car to contend for the victory in Sunday's race, Brad Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe salvaged a solid, sixth-place finish and held serve in the second round of the Chase.
Keselowski started 15th and methodically drove his way up into the top five, with the aid of a quick two-tire call on a late green-flag pit stop. Last week's race winner lost his series lead to Jimmie Johnson, Sunday's runner-up, but he's only one point behind as the Chase heads to Dover.
"That's respectable," Keselowski said after exiting his No. 2 Dodge. "We'd like to be just a little bit faster than we were today, but this is what a championship team does. They take weekends where they're not the best and make something out of it.
"We just didn't really have any short-run speed. We had decent long-run speed, but we didn't have the short-run speed to keep up with some of those guys. The 11 car (of race winner Denny Hamlin), we didn't have anything for him, short or long. He was just dominant."
RIGHT WHERE HE WANTS 'EM
Jimmie Johnson has to feel good about his Chase chances. Not only did he take the points lead on Sunday, he's heading next weekend to race track that's arguably his best.
Johnson has seven victories and an average finish of 8.9 at Dover. Among the five drivers immediately behind him in the standings, Tony Stewart has the best average finish -- 13.4. Johnson, however, added a cautionary note.
"You've still got to run the race and run well," said Johnson, who has four wins and eight top-10 finishes in his last nine Dover races. "I certainly look at good tracks and want to capitalize. I think the 11 (Hamlin) had that on their mind this weekend and came in here (New Hampshire) and executed and did a great job.
"When you get to the Chase, you need to execute on your great tracks and get the results you should there, and then on the tracks that aren't your best, you still have to have good days."
If the rivals of the five-time champion are looking for a source of optimism, they can point to Talladega two weeks hence. Johnson has failed to finish all three restrictor-plate races this season.