LONG POND - When it came to the subject of 'restarts' earlier in the week, Denny Hamlin admitted he was maintaining around a "C" average.
His grade improved dramatically in Sunday's Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono Raceway.
When an accident on the race's final lap spoiled a clean finish for him, Hamlin was handed one last re-start which resulted in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' version of overtime a "Green-White-Checkered."
Once the green flag was waved one last time, Hamlin put together the best restart on lap 202 of the race to navigate his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota across the finish line just in the nick of time.
On his seventh and final restart test of the day, Hamlin earned a yellow-checkered flag to pick up his fourth career victory at Pocono Raceway.
The 29-year old Virginia native felt he was within seconds of a clean checkered flag. but he'll take it because he feels he earned every bit of it.
"I mean, I was right there (as the light turned yellow)," said Hamlin, who won his fourth victory and sixth top-10 finish in 2010. "I was a hundred yards maybe from the start/finish like when the caution did come out. It was just such a tough spot to be in because I didn't know what line to restart in. Kyle (Busch) is good on restarts. Tony (Stewart) was fighting us pretty hard there at the end. I mean, you got one in the bag and it looks like you're about to carry the trophy away and something happens.
"That's why I like winning them better this way. It's not just walking away; you've really got to earn it."
Hamlin led the race on five different occasions and managed a days' best 88 laps in the lead. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch was able to take second place.
Busch himself feels he has lacked in his efforts on the "Tricky Triangle" in the past. But, the No. 18 M&Ms Pretzel driver may boost his moral a bit thanks to a much better performance this time around.
In fact, Busch improved his performance by posting what is just his third top-10 finish in 11 races at Pocono Raceway. It is his ninth top-10 finish this season.
"I did the best I could," said Busch. "I went from about an F at knowing how to get around here today to about an A, and an A didn't get it done."
While Hamlin and Busch got to play leader of the class yesterday by leading a combined 120 of 200 laps, Tony Stewart, who won last year's June Pocono 500 race, was just a little behind the pair all day. The Margaret Haas's owned race car driver felt he simply had no chance of catching Hamlin on the last restart to earn his third win at Pocono.
"Nah, not really," said Stewart, who posted his 17th top-10 finish in 23 races at Pocono. "He sailed it off down in there and slid it all the way across and almost put us in the crums. But, we slid across the same way. We broke it in deeper than we both should have anyway.
"You know, restarts were idiotic today. I've seen some of the worst driving I've ever seen in my life in a professional series right here today."
While Joey Logano settled for a 13th-place finish after being spun out by Kevin Harvick on the last lap of the race, Harvick managed to regain control of his car to finish fourth.
While restarts also came back to haunt him, Jimmie Johnson was second guessing himself after he finished with a top-five on the day.
"We got up to second and were running with the No. 11 (Hamlin) on pace," Johnson said. "And, then the pit strategy stuff started coming into play and I was maybe a little cautious on some of the restarts trying to take care of myself and not tear up another race car.
"And, maybe it cost me a little bit. But in the end, it was a great performance. We had a top car, a top speed car all day long and I brought it home in fifth."
Kurt Busch consecutive streak of wins came to an end with a sixth-place finish and Jeff Burton finished seventh. Juan Pablo Montayo, Clint Bowyer, who ran strong leading twice and compiling 59 laps led, and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.