Denny Hamlin stepped out of his car, pointed into the air and took a mighty swing of an invisible baseball bat. Like Babe Ruth (or so the legend goes), Hamlin had called his shot.
The top winner in NASCAR's regular season earned his series-leading fifth win of the year Sunday, backing up a tweet of "We will win" with a dominating run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at Loudon in the second event of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"You don't want to sound too cocky, but I knew what we were capable of," said Hamlin, who was 32nd in qualifying after his crew put the wrong pressure in his tires. "I know we made a couple of big mistakes, but I said we were fast enough to make it up, and we did."
It was the 100th career victory for team owner Joe Gibbs, who also won three Super Bowls as the coach of the Washington Redskins. And it came with a little teamwork, when Kyle Busch slowed down to help suck some debris off the front of Hamlin's car.
"I kind of thought he would be the guy to beat, and he certainly was," said Jimmie Johnson, who finished second and took over the Chase lead.
Johnson will head into Dover, Del., one point ahead of Chicago winner Brad Keselowski, who was sixth Sunday. Jeff Gordon, who was the last man to qualify for the Chase, was third at the 1.058-mile oval.
"We had a great car," said Johnson, a five-time NASCAR season champion, "just not an amazing car like the No. 11."
Hamlin improved to third
But he was confident despite finishing 16th in Chicago, tweeting last Sunday: "This is week 1 of 10. We will win next week."
Hamlin took the lead on the 94th lap and held it for 193 laps in all.
His biggest threat was a plastic bag that was sucked onto the front of his car, blocking part of the air intake, with one-third of the race to go.
Busch, who is not a part of the Chase, slowed down to allow his teammate to come up behind him. The turbulence between the cars blew th e debris off.
"My job was relatively easy: Just make sure that I didn't make any enemies on the way to the front," Hamlin said.
Formula One: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won the Singapore Grand Prix for the second straight year. He inherited the lead from Lewis Hamilton, who led until a gearbox failure on lap 22 forced him to drop out.
Hamilton's McLaren teammate, Jenson Button, was second at the 3.15-mile Marina Bay course.
NHRA: Antron Brown raced to his fifth Top Fuel win of the season, beating teammate Spencer Massey in the final of the Texas Fall Nationals in Ennis.
Brown had a 3.898-second run at 311.49 mph. Massey finished in 3.945 at 300.60. Other winners were Bob Tasca (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
CHASE FOR THE CUP
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Cup standings with eight races remaining.
"1. Jimmie Johnson 2,096
2. Brad Keselowski 2,095
"3. Denny Hamlin 2,089
"4. Tony Stewart 2,086
"5. Kasey Kahne 2,081
"6. Clint Bowyer 2,081
"7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,070
8. Kevin Harvick 2,065
"9. Greg Biffle 2,063
10. Martin Truex Jr. 2,062
11. Matt Kenseth 2,061
12. Jeff Gordon 2,051