Hamlin Wins 6th Time on Season, Takes Richmond and Chase Lead in Points
RICHMOND, Va. -- After 26 races, a lot of craziness from the "have at it, boys" edict and some of the best racing the Sprint Cup Series has seen in years, all is as many predicted it would be in February.
The driver from Chesterfield, Va., earned that right by winning Saturday night's regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway for the second straight year to give him six victories on the season and the points lead heading into the Chase.
Blount: Whole New Ballgame
Denny Hamlin may have the momentum heading into the Chase opener at New Hampshire, but 11 other drivers -- Clint Bowyer included -- believe they can catch him, writes Terry Blount. Column
• Sprint Cup standings
He will start 10 points ahead of Johnson -- who finished third on a night that began with a lot of hype but ended with little drama -- next Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).
You could hear the confidence in Hamlin's voice as he was asked which of the 10 Chase tracks concerned him the most.
"At this point, I'd say we can win at all of them," he said.
Hamlin wasn't being cocky. He was just being as confident as he was Friday when telling reporters he would be a factor at the end as long as Joe Gibbs Racing gave him a car that would finish races.
There's good reason for that confidence, too. Hamlin has won on short tracks and intermediate tracks this season and run well at times on restrictor-plate tracks.
To be the champion, as Johnson has proved, you have to be good everywhere.
"I've been in a lot of these Chases," said Hamlin, who finished third as a rookie in 2006. "I've made a lot of mistakes. Every year I feel like I've learned something. This year I'm more prepared than ever."
1 - Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser / Jimmy John's Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 118.8 2015 Rundown · Three wins, 22 top fives, 27 top 10s, · Led 2248 laps · Average Finish of 8.9 Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook: · One win, six top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 7.571, series-best · Average Running Position of 10.030, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 102.5, fourth-best · 2072 Laps in the Top 15 (77.6), fourth-most · 435 Quality Passes, seventh-most
2 - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.5 2015 Rundown · One win, five top fives, 20 top 10s, · Led 256 laps · Average Finish of 13.9 Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook: · One win, seven top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 10.563, seventh-best · Average Running Position of 11.465, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 100.7, fifth-best · 1998 Laps in the Top 15 (74.8), seventh-most · 467 Quality Passes, fifth-most
3 - Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Crispy Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 107 2015 Rundown · Four wins, 11 top fives, 15 top 10s, · Led 695 laps · Average Finish of 11.2 Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook: · One top five, three top 10s · Average finish of 23.1, 25th-best · Average Running Position of 16.056, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 91.5, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.019, eighth-fastest · 1696 Laps in the Top 15 (63.5), 10th-most · 422 Quality Passes, eighth-most
4 - Martin Truex, Jr (No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 100 2015 Rundown · One win, eight top fives, 22 top 10s, · Led 564 laps · Average Finish of 12.2 Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook: · Three top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 10, second-best · Average Running Position of 9.037, second-best · Driver Rating of 106.6, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.357, series-fastest · 1981 Laps in the Top 15 (82.4), second-most · 563 Quality Passes, series-most