Hamlin pulled away after a restart with 52 laps to go, ending Johnson's remarkable run of five trips to Victory Lane in the last six races at the shortest circuit in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. Hamlin then easily pulled away again on another restart with 12 laps to go, and again when a late crash forced a "green-white-checkered" two-lap sprint to the finish of the 501-lap event.
Hamlin's second career victory on the half-mile oval kept the Virginia racer as the only driver besides Johnson to win on the paper clip-shaped track in the last seven races. Hamlin won the spring race last year, and was leading when Johnson gave him the "bump-and-run" with 15 laps to go earlier this year.
Hamlin led three times for a race-high 206 laps, while Johnson led 164 circuits.
Johnson, seeking his record fourth consecutive series title, held on for second and padded his lead in the series standings with four races to go. Mark Martin remained second in the standings, but his deficit went from 90 points to 118, as he finished eighth. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart held third and fourth positions in the overall standings with finishes of fifth and tenth place respectively, while Juan Pablo Montoya moved back into the top five in the Chase standings with a third place run. Complete standing can be found here.
Next weekend NASCAR's premiere division moves from the shortest track in the series to the longest as they travel to Talladega, Alabama. Considered by most to be the "wild-card" event in the ten race playoff, Talladega is known for its tendency to have what it called "the big one," a wreck that is caused by all 43 cars racing 3 or 4-wide within feet of each other. As they "bump-draft" down the straightaways at nearly 200mph, one mistake can take out numerous cars in a fraction of a second.
If you've never watched a NASCAR race but you love excitement, a race at Talladega is a great introduction to the sport. As an introduction to how exciting a race at Talladega can be, here are a couple of clips. First, the amazing finish there in this year's spring race:
Next, the "big one" from the chase race of 2008. The #83 car was in the second row of cars when his right front tire exploded, which sent him careening across the pack into the wall, and the entire pack of over 30 cars behind him had to scatter and hope to avoid a wreck.
The race will broadcast live on ABC, with coverage beginning at 12pm EST.
Last year's winner of the Chase race at Talladega Super-Speedway was Tony Stewart.