Hamlin moves atop Chase

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RICHMOND, Va. --- Denny Hamlin went from last to first to the top seed in NASCAR's race for the Sprint Cup championship.

Hamlin snapped a monthlong slump Saturday night with another win at Richmond International Raceway, his home track, by holding off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in a dominating victory.

It was Hamlin's series-best sixth win of the season and pushed him past four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson for the top seed in the Chase. The points were reset after Saturday night's race, and Hamlin goes to the Chase opener next week at New Hampshire with a 10-point lead over Johnson.

"I hope you guys are ready for a good 10 weeks," he radioed his crew. It's the first time in Hamlin's career he's been the points leader.

Regular-season points leader Kevin Harvick took the third seed, 30 points behind Hamlin. Busch, also 30 behind Hamlin, gave Toyota and JGR a 1-2 finish.

Kurt Busch is the fifth seed, followed by Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. Biffle was guaranteed a spot in the Chase by finishing 42nd or better. He wound up 32nd.

Jeff Gordon will be seeded eighth, the first of five drivers winless this season who will start the Chase 60 points behind Hamlin.

Clint Bowyer, the only real driver on the "bubble," finished sixth to grab the final Chase spot.

"As happy as I am to make the Chase, I was frustrated with the finish," Bowyer said. "We were a second-place car and made an attempt to pass Denny a couple of times and slipped clear to sixth."

Let the chase begin

DRIVER POINTS

1. Denny Hamlin 5,060

2. Jimmie Johnson 5,050

3. Kevin Harvick 5,030

4. Kyle Busch 5,030

5. Kurt Busch 5,020

6. Tony Stewart 5,010

7. Greg Biffle 5,010

8. Jeff Gordon 5,000

9. Carl Edwards 5,000

10. Jeff Burton 5,000

11. Matt Kenseth 5,000

12. Clint Bowyer 5,000

NEXT RACE

WHAT: Sylvania 300

WHERE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

WHEN: 1 p.m. Sept. 19

ON TV: ESPN

2009 CHAMPION: Mark Martin


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