|Denny Hamlin has now won five races this season. (Getty Images)|
It really doesn't matter whether Denny Hamlin guaranteed victory at New Hampshire and then went out to back it up.
What does count is the Joe Gibbs Racing driver's fifth victory of the year and the dominating fashion in which it came.
Hamlin didn't just beat up the field Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he obliterated it. After leading 150 laps in the July visit to the "Magic Mile," he came back to pace 193 circuits of the Sylvania 300.
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To say Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb have the one-mile track figured out is a bit of an understatement.
"I know we made a couple of big mistakes in the last two weeks," Hamlin said about overcoming running out of fuel in the Chicagoland Chase opener and an air pressure miscue in last weekend's qualifying effort, "but I said we were fast enough to make it up and we were. I'm going to have these guys' backs until they die on me. This is my team.
"It was easy to be patient at the start of the race, because I knew we had a race-winning car. So, I had kind of a timeline in which I wanted to get to the front. We got there a little bit earlier than I expected, but really just took our time."
Still waffling a little on whether he promised victory Sunday or not, Hamlin's confidence is definitely sky high after his New Hampshire performance.
"If you're going to say something like that, that you are going to win, you've got to run extremely well," he said. "This team just gave me a great car this weekend and it was just untouchable here. That's all I can say is it was easy to drive.
"This is what you dream of as a race-car driver, to have cars like these."
While there is still a long way to go before this year's Sprint Cup Series championship is decided, Hamlin is right in the thick of the hunt. His win pulled him to within seven points of leader Jimmie Johnson.
But maybe more importantly for Hamlin is how much his mental state has changed since losing a chance to win the title in 2010. As the Joe Gibbs Racing driver explained, overcoming challenges may be even more beneficial in achieving his title quest than even successes like Sunday.
"I find over the seven years that I've been here; it's just that they really feed off of your attitude and your outlook; and obviously when I have confidence, they have a ton of confidence," Hamlin said of his team. "So I just learned that over time, and really for me, I just learned to handle the bad days better and knowing that I'm one of a handful of drivers that have a great ride, an awesome sponsor, and have a championship-winning team backing me.
"So you know, I can handle the bad days when I put the grand scheme of things in a bigger picture."
Right now Hamlin is definitely in the Sprint Cup Series championship picture.
|This week's Power Rankings|
Jimmie Johnson -- Last Week 2
Two weeks and two straight second-place finishes to start the Chase for Johnson who has climbed to the top of the Sprint Cup Series standings.
Brad Keselowski -- Last Week 1
A decent day in New Hampshire but the Blue Deuce was not much of a factor for the win. Then again, outside of the 11 car, who was?
Denny Hamlin -- Last Week 4
Doesn't matter if he called the shot or not Sunday in Loudon. Hamlin turned in one of the most dominating performances in recent series history on his way to victory number five of the season.
Kasey Kahne -- Last Week 5
Followed up his Chase-opening third-place effort at Chicagoland with another steady performance in Loudon and a finish of fifth.
Tony Stewart -- Last Week 3
Not the start to the Chase he had last year by any means but not terrible for the defending series champion. Stewart rallied back from some early race issues to finish seventh in New Hampshire.
Clint Bowyer -- Last Week 6
Seemed to have some disagreement with crew chief Brian Pattie at one point on Sunday, but other than that a solid fourth-place run for the Michael Waltrip Racing driver.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Last Week 7
Struggled all weekend to find the right balance in the No. 88 car and although a two-tire stop got Junior up as high as 11th on Sunday he was forced to settle for a 13th place finish.
Greg Biffle -- Last Week 8
Had the worst finish of the Chasers Sunday with an 18th-place effort that included some beating and banging with Martin Truex Jr. down the stretch.
Matt Kenseth -- Last Week 11
Like Roush Fenway Racing teammate Biffle also struggled through a pretty ineffective day in Loudon to eek out a 14th place finish.
Martin Truex Jr. -- Last Week 9
Not much to talk about for the NAPA Toyota driver on Sunday except for a 17th-place performance.
Kevin Harvick -- Last Week 10
Just missed a top-10 finish with an 11th-place effort. Hung around near the front of the field most of the afternoon but not a threat in New Hampshire.
Jeff Gordon -- Last Week 12
Won the pole and recorded a third-place finish as a nice rebound from his Chicagoland Chase opener disaster. However, still in the basement of the standings with two races in the book.
Joey Logano -- Last Week 15
Two consecutive finishes inside the first ten for Logano, who nursed a sour engine across the finish line on Sunday.
Ryan Newman -- Last Week 14
Another non-Chaser with a pair of top-10 performances to open up the playoff portion of the schedule.
Kyle Busch -- Last Week 13
Fast early but yet another engine problem for Busch who has suffered more than his share of mechanical problems this season.