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MOTOR RACING ROUNDUP

Hamlin's gamble with tires pays off

July 02, 2007|From Times Wire Reports

A two-tire gamble for Denny Hamlin paid off with his first NASCAR Nextel Cup victory of the season Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon.

Hamlin, last year's top rookie, is second in the season points, but he has been frustrated this season, leading laps and contending without being able to take a checkered flag in the first 16 races.

It appeared he would fall short again, with Martin Truex Jr., series points leader Jeff Gordon and Truex's teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. all running ahead of Hamlin late in the race.

But the leaders made their final scheduled pit stops on Lap 255 during a caution period and Hamlin was the only one of the quartet to take two fresh tires instead of four. He vaulted from fourth to first and stayed out front to the end of the Lenox Industrial Tools 300.

"It's amazing to finally get a win," Hamlin said after his third career Cup victory and first since last July at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.

"We were back in sixth and seventh most of the day, and the only shot we had was to get track position," said Hamlin, who has seven top fives and 11 top 10s this season. "You know, two tires worked for us earlier [in the race] and we kind of made a note that anything inside of 120 laps to go we were going to do two."

While Hamlin worked hard to stay out front, Gordon was working over Truex, trying hard to get by. The two Chevrolets spent a lot of time side by side and nose to tail until Gordon finally squeezed past seven laps from the end of the 300-lap race on the 1.058-mile oval.

Gordon, racing with an interim crew chief after NASCAR suspended his and teammate Jimmie Johnson's crew chiefs for six weeks after their teams were caught the previous week at Sonoma, Calif., with illegally modified front fenders, nearly chased down Hamlin.

The four-time series champion got right up on the rear bumper of the leader's Joe Gibbs Racing Chevy on the final turn. Hamlin held on to win by just 0.068 of a second in the eighth race and New Hampshire debut for NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow.

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Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa gave Ferrari a sweep of the top two places at the French Grand Prix in Magny Cours, France, ending McLaren's winning streak at three Formula One races.

Raikkonen, who also captured the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, won his second race this year -- and the 11th of his career -- after starting third on the grid. The Finn finished the 2.74-mile circuit in 1 hour 30 minutes 54.200 seconds. Massa, a Brazilian, was nearly 2 1/2 seconds behind.

Lewis Hamilton was third for McLaren. Hamilton, a rookie who has eight straight top-three finishes, leads the drivers standings with 64 points.

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Rookie Robert Doornbos drove to his first career win at the inaugural Champ Car Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada, giving him four top-three finishes in six races.

Sebastien Bourdais, Champ Car's three-time defending champion, finished second and wasn't happy about it, saying that Doornbos blocked him during the race. Bourdais refused to shake Doornbos' hand on the podium.

"Robert knows exactly what he did," Bourdais said. "We're not supposed to do that in Champ Car. He changed lanes three times when I was trying to pick a line."

Doornbos took advantage of numerous mistakes and misfortunes that befell the rest of the pack on the 2.65-mile road course to give Minardi Team USA its first series win.

Doornbos and Bourdais are tied atop the standings with 145 points.

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Tony Schumacher, the defending top fuel series champion, beat Rod Fuller in the final of the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. Mike Ashley beat Kenny Bernstein in funny car, and Dave Connolly beat Larry Morgan in pro stock.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The Chase

Nextel Cup standings through 17 of 36 races. After the 26th race of the season, all drivers in the top 12 will earn a berth in the Chase for the Cup:

*--* Pl. Driver Points Behind 1. Jeff Gordon 2,613 -- 2. Denny Hamlin 2,457 156 3. Matt Kenseth 2,248 365 4. Jimmie Johnson 2,232 381 5. Jeff Burton 2,230 383 6. Tony Stewart 2,185 428 7. Carl Edwards 2,148 465 8. Kevin Harvick 2,106 507 9. Kyle Busch 2,040 573 10. Martin Truex Jr. 2,033 580 11. Clint Bowyer 1,986 627 12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1,985 628

*--*

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