The Inside Line: Hamlin walks the talk at New Hampshire

3:20 PM, Sep 24, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Denny Hamlin isn't talking the talk when he makes predictions.

Shortly after he ran out of fuel on the final lap and finished 16th in the Chase opener on Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway, Hamlin posted on his Twitter account, "We will win next week." He backed up his words by winning Sunday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Hamlin's victory came in dominating fashion, as he led 193 of 300 laps and beat Jimmie Johnson to the finish line by a sizeable margin -- 2.7 seconds.

Even though he followed through on his declaration to win at New Hampshire, Hamlin knows he's far from being an expert in fortune-telling. Hamlin noted during his weekly press conference on Friday that he simply expects to win.

"Just confident that we could win," Hamlin said in response to his tweet after Chicago. "It's no different than the nine Chase tracks that we go to, other than Dover, where I'm going to be realistic. I feel like I can go win each and every one of them. Really, it's nothing more than that. 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."

Hamlin raced to his Sprint Cup Series-leading fifth win of the season over the weekend. He also moved to within seven points of Johnson, who took over the points lead following his second-place run.

After leaving New Hampshire, Hamlin tweeted about his victory and celebratory burnout but made no predictions for next weekend's race at Dover.

"I just wanted to clarify that there are no guarantees," he said during the post-race press conference. "I've had the fastest car in my career and not won ... 20 times, some crazy amount, and not won because of the variables that I talked about on Friday. So I just wanted it to be clear ... all right. I'm not guaranteeing anything, but barring any of those circumstances happening, we were going to win.

"I had faith that we were going to win. It was more for my fan base that was probably down on your performance at Chicago. It was more for them, all of my followers are on Twitter, I was going to assure them that we were going to have a rebound week."

Hamlin's win is not only vindication for Chicago but the July race at New Hampshire as well. Hamlin also a had a dominant car there two months ago, leading 150 of 300 laps. But a miscommunication between he and crew chief Darian Grubb on tire strategy late in the race cost him an opportunity to win. He finished second to Kasey Kahne.

"You look at how many realistic shots we had at winning races, and there's no reason why we shouldn't have six, seven or eight wins this season, based off of just obscene stuff (that) happened that took us out of victory lane," Hamlin said.

In 2010, Hamlin won a series-high eight races and finished a career-best second in points. He went into the season-finale at Homestead that year with a 15-point lead over Johnson but ended up losing the championship to Johnson by 39.

After scoring only one race win and finishing ninth in the Chase last year, Grubb replaced Mike Ford as crew chief for Hamlin's team at Joe Gibbs Racing. Grubb guided Tony Stewart to five wins during last year's Chase, which earned Stewart his third series title.

Hamlin has won three of the last five races. He claimed back-to-back victories at Bristol and Atlanta before concluding the regular season with an 18th-place run at Richmond. Hamlin is hoping that winning momentum can continue at Dover, regardless of his previous struggles there.

One thing that Hamlin can plug into his psychic abilities is the winner of the second race in the Chase has gone to claim the championship the past three years.

Can Hamlin keep the streak alive?

Perhaps he should look into a crystal ball and make a prediction.

The Sports Network

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