Pocono Raceway or “The Pennsylvania 500” was the scene and Denny Hamlin earned the inspiring win and ended a 50-race winless skid on Monday afternoon after rain pushed the race back one day.
When Hamlin—in the Fed-Ex Toyota No. 11—faced the final re-start in fifth position you could feel something special about to happen.
During an in car conversation between Hamlin and his crew chief you could hear the passion in his voice as he said “I want this race” and like magic on the re-start, some light contact between Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne opened a hole in which Hamlin cruised thru gaining three positions and never looked back.
Hamlin then set his sights on Bowyer with Montoya hot on his heels. However nothing could keep Hamlin from destiny as he passed Bowyer on lap 10 and took it home for the checkered flag.
Hamlin won for the third time in eight career starts at Pocono. Hamlin has also had three other top 10s there at Pocono. This was Hamlin's first victory since Martinsville Speedway in March 2008, and he strengthened his bid for a spot in the Chase for the championship.
Hamlin was in tears following the Pennsylvania 500, the victory coming days after his grandmother's death.
During the end of race interview when asked what he would like to say to his parents watching from their family home, there was a catch to his voice as he spoke, and he said “just think of my mom right now” and he wiped his face with a towel before walking away for a subdued celebration. Hamlin’s grandmother, Thelma Clark, passed away Friday at the age of 91.
"We definitely had some angels with us today," Hamlin said.
The race had been delayed a day because of rain on Sunday. It was probably one of the most exciting race I have ever watched at Pocono. This one was wild and unpredictable almost from the start.
Juan Pablo Montoya rebounded nicely after losing a victory last week at Indianapolis, “Brickyard 400” because of a speeding penalty. Montoya said during interviews when he got to Pocono that he had moved on and the points standings was his focus. He went from 10th to eighth in the standings after the second place finish and his team is in good shape to make the Chase for the first time.
"My goal this year is making the Chase," Montoya said. "That's the bigger picture."
Clint Bowyer finishing third and hasn't won in 47 races. Bowyer lost the lead with 10 laps left.
"There wasn't a straight finger on my car," Bowyer said. "Once they caught me, they caught me."
This finish moves his team up to 15th in the Chase standings.
"Things haven't been going our way all year long so it feels good to have something swing our way," Bowyer said.
Sam Hornish Jr. was fourth for his best finish in a Cup car, and Kasey Kahne was fifth.
"Denny was the car to beat all day," Kahne said.
Three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson battled back all day, falling three laps down. Johnson's team changed the carburetor with 60 laps left and a little of that magic from Hamlin must have rubbed off on him as he came roaring back with a solid 13th-place finish.
Tony Stewart, who won Pocono in June, could no pull off his bid for “two in a row at Pocono” but finished 10th and increased his lead to 197 points over Jimmie Johnson.
There are five races left before the 12-driver field is set for the 10-race sprint for the title.
THE CURRENT STANDINGS ARE
1st Tony Stewart 3188
2nd Jimmie Johnson (-197)
3rd Jeff Gordon (-199)
4th Kurt Busch (-437)
5th Denny Hamlin (-475)
6th Carl Edwards (-523)
7th Kasey Kahne (-546)
8th Juan Pablo Montoya (-557)
9th Ryan Newman (-561)
10th Mark Martin (-566)
11th Matt Kenseth (-624)
12th Greg Biffle (-625)