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Archive for Monday, July 24, 2006

Hamlin wins; drivers testy at Pocono

Bowyer, Edwards irate at Stewart during NASCAR race

July 24, 2006

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— As Denny Hamlin celebrated his second victory of the season, chaos reigned in NASCAR's garage.

Carl Edwards threatened to beat up Tony Stewart. Clint Bowyer also wanted to, but couldn't get close enough to try.

Stewart, meanwhile, was pining for the days when the late Dale Earnhardt policed the garage and kept order on the track.

Just another day at Pocono Raceway, where Hamlin completed a season sweep by winning the Pennsylvania 500, a race that had two aggressive-driving penalties.

"Covering drama is more exciting than covering the race anymore," quipped second-place finisher Kurt Busch. It was sizzling Sunday, when Bowyer pinched Stewart into the wall early in the race.

Stewart responded with a wave out his window, then his own bump of Bowyer's car. It sent Bowyer spinning into Carl Edwards and earned Stewart a one-lap penalty for aggressive driving.

A furious Edwards later drove alongside Stewart and raised his arms as if to ask, "What was that about?" and Stewart responded with a one-fingered salute. That infuriated Edwards, who spun Stewart out on pit road to earn his own penalty and vowed over his radio to fight Stewart after the race.

"That's so frustrating. How can a person make it this far in life being such a jerk?" Edwards said.

Stewart recovered to finish seventh.

"I think if the No. 3 car was here (Earnhardt), I don't think we would have the same problems in this series as we have," Stewart said. "He always had a way of letting drivers know where they stood and when to move and when not to move. It's just the first-year and second-year drivers that don't understand that there needs to be a little give-and-take."

Dale Earnhardt Junior, meanwhile, is out of the top 10 after a hit from Dave Blaney sent him into the wall and out of the race. He finished 43rd for the second straight week and needed almost 30 minutes to cool off before coming out of his transporter. Third in the points two weeks ago, Junior is now 11th in the standings with just six races to go to qualify for the Chase.

Hamlin scored his second career victory. The first came six weeks ago here when he recovered from a spin through the grass and needed to hold off NASCAR's heavyweights on a late restart.

This one was far easier, with Hamlin leading 151 of the 200 laps in what turned into a leisurely Sunday drive for one of NASCAR's budding young stars. He's eighth in the points, and if he can hang on another six weeks, Hamlin will find himself racing for the Nextel Cup title.

"We'll just keep plugging away. That's all we can do," he said.

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