Loudon, N.H. • Denny Hamlin stepped out of his car, pointed into the air and took a mighty swing of an invisible baseball bat. Like Babe Ruth did before him (or so the legend goes), Hamlin had called his shot.
The top winner in NASCAR's regular season earned his series-leading fifth victory of the year Sunday, backing up a tweet of "We will win" with a mistake-free and dominating run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the second event of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"You don't want to sound too cocky, but I knew what we were capable of," said Hamlin, who was 32nd in qualifying after his crew put the wrong pressure in his tires during qualifying Friday. "I know we made a couple of big mistakes, but I said we were fast enough to make it up and we did."
It was the 100th career victory for team owner Joe Gibbs, who also won three Super Bowls as the coach of the Washington Redskins. And it came with a little teamwork, too, when Kyle Busch slowed down to help suck some debris off the front of Hamlin's car and propel him to victory.
"As fast as he was, he could have gone to the back of any car and pulled that off," said Jimmie Johnson, who finished second and took over the Chase lead. "I kind of thought he would be the guy to beat and he certainly was. We are second-best."
Johnson will head into Dover, Del., one of his top tracks, one point ahead of Chicago winner Brad Keselowski, who was sixth Sunday. Jeff Gordon, who was the last man to qualify for the Chase, was third.
"We had a great race car," said Johnson, a five-time NASCAR season champion, "just not an amazing car like the No. 11 did here today."
Hamlin improved to third in the Chase, seven points behind Johnson.
Despite finishing 16th in Chicago last week, Hamlin tweeted: "This is week 1 of 10. We will win next week."
Formula One • Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the Singapore Grand Prix, jumping up to second place in the drivers' championship. Jenson Button, finished second at Marina Bay ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, whose championship lead was cut from 37 to 29 points with six races to go.
Sprint Cup standings
1. Johnson 2,096
2. Keselowski 2,095 -1
3. Hamlin 2,089 -7
4. Stewart 2,086 -10
5. Kahne 2,081 -15
6. Bowyer 2,081 -15
7. Earnhardt 2,070 -26
8. Harvick 2,065 -31
9. Biffle 2,063 -33
10. Truex 2,062 -34
11. Kenseth 2,061 -35
12. Gordon 2,051 -45