Parks Pit Report: Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire
These days, any kind of guarantee is normally hard to back up. The only guarantees in life, as the cliche goes, are death and taxes. That’s why it’s hard when someone makes a guarantee that they’ll do something to believe them. Often it puts added pressure on the person’s shoulders to get the job done, and pressure to also make sure it’s done right.
Needless to say when I was viewing my Twitter feed a few days ago (for those that have it, I’m at Twitter.com/AllHorsepower), and saw Denny Hamlin guarantee victory at New Hampshire, I was skeptical.
Sure, he’s called his shots before, but he never said he guaranteed victory, nor did any driver for that matter. Last year, Tony Stewart came close to guaranteeing victory in the Chase following his win at Martinsville, but never actually said it. Only thing he told his closest competitor, Carl Edwards, was “He better be worried, we’re not gonna make it easy these last three races.”
But I kept thinking back to the first race at New Hampshire this year, where Hamlin practically had the race won, but a miscommunication on pit road caused him to race through the field to get even within a whim of getting the victory. He came close, but had to settle for second behind eventual winner Kasey Kahne.
Then came qualifying, and Hamlin was the last to go as he was the fastest in practice. But, a mistake by the crew on tire pressures meant he had to come from the back of the field to the front, as he would start Sunday’s race in 32nd.
In a way, it was a blessing in disguise because that car, and that driver, were dominant when the green flag waved. Before the race was even a fifth of the way in, he was in the top-10, then the top-five. On lap 94, Hamlin got the lead for the first time.
After that, it was clear, the only way any other driver was going to win the Sylvania 300 was to out-muscle, out-smart, or out-drive the No. 11 car. Unfortunately, that was not going to happen. Hamlin called his shot, and maybe put a little psychological pressure on the other teams, rather than add pressure to himself. Hamlin crossed the line a winner, a dominant winner, living up to what he guaranteed days prior.
As I stated when I previewed the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup, my pick for the overall title would be Hamlin. The win on Sunday was his fifth this year, but currently he sits third in the standings, seven points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, whom he battled in 2010 for the very same title.
I don’t expect any guarantees for victory heading into the next race, but the way this season has gone, anything is possible. We all for the most part use social media, so who knows what will happen.
RESULTS: 1-Hamlin 2-Johnson 3-Gordon 4-Bowyer 5-Kahne 6-Keselowski 7-Stewart 8-Logano 9-Vickers 10-Newman
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Harvick 13-Earnhardt Jr. 14-Kenseth 17-Truex Jr. 18-Biffle 19-Edwards 28-Kyle Busch
CAUTIONS: 4 for 17 laps. Lap 42-45 (Competition), 130-133 (Debris-T3), 179-183 (Debris-T1), 274-277 (Debris-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 17 among 10 drivers. Gordon 1-3, Stewart 4-41, Gordon 42, Mears 43, Gordon 44-45, Kyle Busch 46-93, Hamlin 94-107, Kahne 108, Johnson 109, Kenseth 110, Keselowski 111-112, Hamlin 113-179, Vickers 180-184, Hamlin 185-244, Johnson 245, Gordon 246, Keselowski 247-248, Hamlin 249-300.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 43 Mins, 2 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 116.810 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 2.675 Seconds
2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup: 1. Johnson, 2096 points; 2. Keselowski, -1; 3. Hamlin, -7; 4. Stewart, -10; 5. Kahne, -15; 6. Bowyer, -15; 7. Earnhardt Jr, -26; 8. Harvick, -31; 9. Biffle, -33; 10. Truex Jr, -34; 11. Kenseth, -35; 12. Gordon, -45.