|Denny Hamlin in Victory Lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway|
Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
Hamlin crossed the start/finish line 0.378 seconds ahead of a hard-charging Gordon. He had this to say about his battle with the four-time Cup champion: "Two things, I wanted to win to be the number one seed. Second, that was going to knock my teammate out of the Chase and I am not for that. I'm a Joe Gibbs guys and I always will be for the life of me and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get as many cars in there because it helps me - we need Kyle (Busch) in there, we need Joey (Logano) in there and if Jeff (Gordon) won that race, it was going to be all over. We did what we had to do."
Second-place finisher Jeff Gordon, who came close to making a pass for the win, explained that the team could never get his car tight enough to complete the charge that he wanted to make to the front.
"I'm just mad at myself right now because I'm getting soft in my old age, I'm too nice. About 15 years ago I would have just moved him (Hamlin) up the track." The four-time Cup champion is aware that the battle in Richmond is going to very intense; if he is faced with the same scenario as tonight's closing lap then he has promised that the car in front of him will be moved up the track. "It's not going to happen twice."
Third-place finisher Brad Keselowski felt that his team had a solid night performance and is looking forward to the Chase. "Yeah, just a solid night. We had a car that was a pleasant surprise. I thought after practice we weren't going to be all that competitive, but once again, the 2 team, everybody on it stepped up, made some great changes this morning to get us where we just had a strong, consistent night, running fifth or sixth or whatever that was, and just proud of that effort ... I'm proud to say we were able to clinch our spot in the Chase. I know I'm going to have a blast at Richmond with no pressure. I'm going to have a blast watching Jeff and Kyle."
Rounding out the top ten finishers were: Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56), Kevin Harvick (No. 29), Kyle Busch (No. 18), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88), Paul Menard (No. 27), Matt Kenseth (No. 17) and Mark Martin (No. 55).
It is now official that the top ten drivers are locked into the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase; therefore, there will be a fierce battle for the two wildcard spots next week at Richmond International Raceway. The drivers who will be competing for at least one of the two wildcard spots are as follows and are mathematically close (from 10th) to sealing the deal include Kasey Kahne (2 wins, -18), Kyle Busch (1 win, -23) and Jeff Gordon (1 win, -35).
- There were 18 lead changes with 7 different leaders - Hamlin (105 laps), Harvick (101 laps), Kyle Busch (66 laps), Truex Jr. (40 laps), Stewart (8 laps), Gordon (6 laps) and Biffle (1 lap)
- There were six cautions for 31 laps (three accidents, two for oil on the track and one debris)
- There were 12 infractions (6 for speeding penalties & 6 for pitting before pit road was open)
Official Race Results, click here.
Official Points Standings, click here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be heading to Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 8 for the Federated Auto Parts 400. It will be broadcast on ABC at 7 p.m. ET.