It is always dangerous to guarantee a win in any sport if your name is not Babe Ruth or Mark Messier.
Yet there was Denny Hamlin issuing such a promise earlier this week that his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota would win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
This was no ordinary race, it was the second round of the Chase for the Championship with all the pressure that goes with it.
Throw in the fact Hamlin had a bad qualifying effort, putting his car back in 28th spot on the starting grid, and his pledge was starting to look misguided.
Once the green flag dropped at the Loudon, N.H., Magic Mile, however, Hamlin cut through the field like he had an extra gear.
He had said pre-race he wanted to be in the top 10 by Lap 100 and he was there by Lap 93.
Oh, there were some nervous moments, like when his JGR teammate Kyle Busch dropped a cylinder in the No. 18 Toyota or when NASCAR called a caution for debris with about 20 laps to go allowing second place finisher and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson to close up to his back bumper.
On the ensuing restart Hamlin took off leaving Johnson and everybody else in his dust.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a little confidence in your team,” Hamlin said in the post-race media scrum. “You never want to sound too cocky but I knew what we were capable of. Our team has been extremely strong all season and we seem to have a really good knack for this race track.
“The two together with a crew chief like Darian (Grubb) is a winning combination.”
Hamlin’s boast came in the wake of misjudging his fuel at the first Chase race in Chicagoland where a potential win turned into a 16th-place finish.
“I know we made a couple of big mistakes over that last two weeks but I said we were fast enough to make it up (at Loudon) and we were,” he said.“I am just excited that I was able to pull it off.”
In any other season Lewis Hamilton might have been expected to blow his top after the gearbox failed in his McLaren Mercedes, especially considering what it did to his world championship hopes.
But Hamilton was the epitome of cool as he walked back to the paddock leaving his wounded race car on the Singapore Grand Prix circuit.
“It’s heart-breaking not to have finished the race today,” he said afterwards. “We definitely had the pace to win this weekend. In fact, before I retired, I was cruising; just managing the gap back to Seb (Vettel).”
Hamilton had started on the pole and was indeed dominating the race to that point, looking to close the gap between himself and championship leader Fernando Alonso.
“Then I started to experience difficulty with the gearshift, then I lost third gear, and then the ’box kept dropping into neutral,” he said.
Hamilton all but admitted his hopes for a second title are over for this year
“It’s going to be hard to close the gap to guys like Fernando and Sebastian, especially when they keep finishing race after race, but I’ll never give up.
“There are six more races, and I need to go and win all six.
“I’ll fight until the end.”
The old Lewis Hamilton would have thrown a fit, but I like this new guy.
No matter what the series anyone who wins seven out of 12 races — like D.J. Kennington and the No. 17 Castrol Edge Dodge team did this season in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series — deserves all the kudos coming his way. ... The moustache that Jeff Gordon started to grow on a bet after making the Chase at Richmond was gone at New Hampshire. He said any luck that may have come with the ’stache disappeared at Chicagoland where he wrecked.
Sebastian Vettel won the Singapore Grand Prix for Red Bull, but only after Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire when his McLaren Mercedes lost its gear box.
“We didn’t have the fastest package this weekend but we still won,” Vettel said.
The win puts Vettel back in the world championship conversation and pretty much ends Hamilton’s bid.
Fernando Alonso, however, with his third-place finish for Ferrari maintains his hold on first place with six races left on the F-1 calendar.
Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button was second with Paul di Resta a surprise fourth place finish for Force India and Nico Rosberg rounding out the top five for Mercedes.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP
Denny Hamlin promised a victory at New Hampshire for his No. 11 Toyota team and came through in flying colours dominating the Sylvania 300 at the Magic Mile.
He ended up crossing the finish line 2.675 seconds ahead of second place Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Chevrolet.
It was Hamlin’s fifth of the season and the 22nd of his Cup career.
Jeff Gordon, who started on the pole, finished third in the No, 24 Chevrolet keeping his Chase hopes alive.
Chase drivers claimed the top seven spots with Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart finishing fourth through seventh.