Hamlin stays on big roll
The present, however, is impressive enough.
Hamlin earned his fifth Sprint Cup Series win in the past 10 races, and third in the past five, with a dominating victory in Sunday’s Heluva Good! 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
At one point, Hamlin led runner-up Kasey Kahne by as much as 10 seconds.
A late-race caution bunched the field with 13 of 200 laps remaining, but all that did was make for pictures of a closer finish at the end.
“It’s a great accomplishment to win on so many different race tracks for us,” said Hamlin. His 2010 wins already represent a personal best, and there are 21 races left.
“To be able to unload and know you’re going to be competitive for a race win week in and week out gives you a lot of confidence. For the first time really in my career, I feel like we’re at this place.”
With five wins now—two more than his nearest competitor, Jimmie Johnson—what is the limit for Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team?
“I feel like each week that we show up, we just set our bar a little bit higher than it was the week before,” Hamlin said. “You go to Pocono, everyone expects us to win. They jot us down, engrave the trophy.
“But there’s a lot of effort that goes into that. It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Kahne, who easily enjoyed his best run of the season and was Ford Racing’s best hope on Sunday, was never seriously within reach of Hamlin.
“I didn’t like watching him drive away from me, but I
wasn’t surprised when he did,” Kahne said.
Hamlin led 123 of the 200 laps, including 83 of the final 87.
Kurt Busch, who started from the pole, finished third. Jeff Gordon was fourth and Tony Stewart fifth.
Cambridge native Matt Kenseth finished 14th, and Janesville’s Travis Kvapil was 31st.
Last updated: 2:05 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012