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Top-Seeded Hamlin Leads Chase To New Hampshire

- Justin St. Louis on 16 Sep 2010

Denny Hamlin leads the NASCAR Chase to New HampshirePHOTO: Denny Hamlin leads the NASCAR Chase to New Hampshire

Sylvania 300 weekend coverage presented by New England Dirt Track Championships and Subway of VT/NH

LOUDON, N.H. -- The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, and for the first time in his career Denny Hamlin finds himself leading the series standings.

It happened at the right time: Sunday’s Sylvania 300 marks the opening round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Hamlin rebounded from a blown engine at Atlanta to win the Air Guard 400 last week at Richmond and earn the top seed in the 12-man Chase postseason. By virtue of his series leading six victories to Jimmie Johnson’s five -- and the ten Chase bonus points that accompany each of those wins -- Hamlin holds a ten-point lead over four-time defending champion Johnson.

Kevin Harvick held a 228-point lead over Johnson following the Richmond event, but dropped to third place as the points were reset for the Chase contenders entering New Hampshire; Harvick, with three wins, is now 30 points behind Hamlin and at an even 5,030 points with Kyle Busch.

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CHASE: Johnson Hot In Postseason

Jimmie Johnson has made the Chase his personal playground, winning each of the last four Sprint Cup championships, a NASCAR record. Johnson has 18 victories in Chase events since the format began in 2004 -- no one else has more than six -- and is the only driver to qualify for all seven Chase postseasons.

Thirty-two of Johnson’s 52 career Sprint Cup Series victories have come at tracks hosting Chase events in 2010. He has three career victories at New Hampshire including the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in June.

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STAYING ALIVE: Bowyer Shedding Inconsistency?

Clint Bowyer is coming alive at the right time, earning top-seven finishes in each of the last three events -- his best three-race stretch of the season -- and seven top-15 results in the last eight races.

Bowyer has 14 top-ten finishes through the first 26 races, but also has seven finishes outside the top-20.

Bowyer was the last driver to lock himself into the Chase, fending off Jamie McMurray for the 12th position. In the last three weeks, Bowyer finished fourth at Bristol, seventh at Atlanta, and sixth at Richmond to earn his spot in the Chase for the third time in his career and first since 2008.

In Bowyer’s first Chase in 2007, he finished third overall and earned the first Sprint Cup win of his career in the opening event at New Hampshire.

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HOME COOKING: Northerners Come Home To New Hampshire

The Sylvania 300 is a “home” event for many competitors on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series including Vermont team owner Bill Jenkins and crew chief Frank Stoddard of North Haverhill, N.H.

Jenkins’ No. 26 Air National Guard Ford will be driven by former Nationwide Series champion Jeff Green. New Hampshire is the site of Green’s best career Sprint Cup finish -- second -- which came in 2002 with Richard Childress Racing. Stoddard has four wins at New Hampshire as a crew chief, all with Jeff Burton at Roush Fenway Racing.

Dave Rogers, crew chief for fourth-ranked driver Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing, is a native of Marshfield, Vt. Rogers has earned the first three victories of his Sprint Cup crew chief career with Busch in 2010.

Drivers Joey Logano and Martin Truex, Jr., also consider New Hampshire a home track, as each hails from the northeast and cut his teeth racing on the NASCR K&N Pro Series East at the “Magic Mile.” Logano, of Middletown, Conn., won both of his K&N Series starts at the track in 2007, and earned his first career Sprint Cup win there in 2009. Logano’s crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, is also a Connecticut native.

New Jersey-born Truex won at New Hampshire twice on the K&N Series and also owns a Nationwide Series victory there. His brother, Ryan, won the K&N race there in June, and father, Martin Sr., was a winner there with the series in 1994.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Point Standings Entering Chase:
1. Denny Hamlin -- No. 11 FedEx Small Business Toyota -- 5,060 pts.
2. Jimmie Johnson -- No. 48 Lowe’s/Johns Manville Chevrolet -- 5,050
3. Kevin Harvick -- No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevolet -- 5,030
4. Kyle Busch -- No. 18 M&M’s Toyota -- 5,030
5. Kurt Busch -- No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge -- 5,020
6. Tony Stewart -- No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet -- 5,010
7. Greg Biffle -- No. 16 3M Ford -- 5,010
8. Jeff Gordon -- No. 24 National Guard Facebook/DuPont Chevrolet -- 5,000
9. Carl Edwards -- No. 99 Aflac Ford -- 5,000
10. Jeff Burton -- No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet -- 5,000
11. Matt Kenseth -- No. 17 Crown Royal Ford -- 5,000
12. Clint Bowyer -- No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet -- 5,000

SEASON OPENERS

ACT LATE MODEL TOUR
Feb. 13/14, 2011
New Smyrna Speedway
New Smyrna Beach, FL

MODIFIED RACING SERIES
March 27, 2011
Waterford Speedbowl
Waterford, CT

PASS NORTH SUPER LATE MODELS
April 30, 2011
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway
Scarborough, ME

SPRINT CARS OF NEW ENGLAND
2011 Schedule TBA

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