Denny Hamlin had Martinsville Speedway in his radar since the beginning of the Chase. Sunday in the TUMS Fast Pain Relief 500 he showed why.
Hamlin continued his mastery of what he considers his home track with his third straight win and in the process did exactly what he said he'd o - shaved Jimmie Johnson's lead in the Sprint Cup Series point standings.
Hamlin's victory cut his deficit to only six points behind Johnson with four races to go but he wasn't the only one who improved his title hopes. Kevin Harvick's third place finish pulled him to within 62 of the top spot:
(1st) - Denny Hamlin
He didn't get maximum points but the effort Sunday was more than good enough even by Hamlin's high standards. He basically called his shot coming into Martinsville and went out Friday to win the pole, backing it up with his impressive trip to victory lane.
(3rd) - Kevin Harvick
Had a bit of a tussle with Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton to overcome but his march from the 36th starting spot to third was a championship-caliber effort and Harvick stayed right smack in the middle of the championship picture with the effort.
(4th) - Kyle Busch
Solid day for another member of the Joe Gibbs Racing team as Busch helped pump up his stats at Martinsville and may be poised to take the next step as a potential winner there in 2011.
(5th) - Jimmie Johnson
A 19th place starting spot put Johnson in the middle of the field and in harm's way early on. He dodged several bullets as well as a few un-48 team-like stops on pit road to rally back and post a top five finish that at least kept him on top of the championship standings mountain.
(8th) - Carl Edwards
Had his share of scrums over the course of the 500-lap grind but Edwards came home with a solid if somewhat quiet top ten finish.
(9th) - Jeff Burton
The class of the field at one point of the race, the Virginia veteran got involved in a game of tag with teammate Harvick and eventually slid back in the pack but was able to hang on for the top ten run.
(15th) - Matt Kenseth
Hope of making amends for getting knocked out of the way in the closing laps of a possible win back in March didn't pan out Sunday. Ran upfront but was shuffled back in the late going.
(16th) - Kurt Busch
Battled an ill-handling race car and then found himself in the middle of a controversy when he paid back Jeff Gordon for a bump and run move that drew more than its share of boos from the stands.
(20th) - Jeff Gordon
Another week yet the same old story for Gordon. Lightning fast in the beginning of the race and at the front of the field for several laps. But got shuffled back and then became involved with Busch who ended his chance at a good finish when he punted Gordon on the straightaway and then into the inside wall.
(24th) Tony Stewart
Not much of a day for the former Martinsville winner who had a pit road speeding violation to compound his already rough afternoon.
(33rd) - Greg Biffle
If it could go wrong for Biffle Sunday it did. A great qualifying effort went by the wayside in a hurry when Biffle was involved in spins, flat tire issues and pit road miscues throughout the 500 laps.
(38th) Clint Bowyer
Not much to say about Bowyer's day which began with an early spin and went downhill from there.