HAMPTON, Ga. Denny Hamlin celebrated his second consecutive victory Sunday night, looking more and more as if he'll be the driver to beat entering the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Jeff Gordon was kicking himself for letting a desperately needed win slip away, while Martin Truex Jr. couldn't help but wonder what it will take to get back to Victory Lane.
Hamlin capitalized on a fortuitous yellow flag with three laps to go, beating Truex off pit road and fending off Gordon on the final lap in a green-white-checkered finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"We have a lot of momentum now," Hamlin said. "I will try to take advantage of it."
After a largely uneventful race, all sorts of subplots developed on the harried dash to the finish.
Hamlin knew a series-leading fourth win of the season would put him in position to top the standings when the 12-driver Chase begins after next weekend's race at Richmond. Also on his mind was keeping Gordon from a win, which would have boosted his playoff hopes at the expense of Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, Hamlin's teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing.
"I'm going to do whatever it takes to get as many (Gibbs) cars in there because it helps me," Hamlin said.
Gordon, it turned out, didn't do what he needed to do.
The four-time series champion was positioned to pull off a pass on Hamlin going through the third and fourth turns. But he became too tentative making his move on the leader. Instead of getting right on his quarter panel, which might have caused Hamlin's car to wobble, Gordon went in with too much speed and drifted up near the wall going through the high-banked turn, allowing Hamlin to pull away.
Gordon almost surely must win at Richmond to claim a wild card.
"I would like to have that one over again," Gordon said. "I guess I'm getting soft in my old age."
Truex appeared positioned for his first win since 2007 until Jamie McMurray smashed into the wall on the front straightaway, bringing out a caution with three laps to go. The leaders went to pit road, and Hamlin's crew put him back on the track first, just ahead of Truex.
While Truex struggled to get up to speed on the restart, Hamlin pulled away with Gordon right on his bumper. It was still that way when the checkered flag came out. Brad Keselowski finished third, and Truex faded to fourth.
"I wanted this one real bad," Hamlin said. "The car faded a little bit, but the pit crew won me that race."
IndyCar in Baltimore Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Grand Prix of Baltimore, charging to the front on a controversial restart to keep alive his hopes of the series title.
Will Power could have clinched the season title with a second straight win in Baltimore on the 2.04-mile street course. But the pole sitter finished sixth.
The last restart came five laps from the end of the 75-lap race. While front-runner Ryan Briscoe was waiting for the green flag, Hunter-Reay caught sight of it and took off, moving from second to first.
Briscoe claimed Hunter-Reay jumped the gun, but race officials disagreed. Briscoe finished second.
Hunter-Reay moved within 17 points of Power entering the season finale Sept. 15 in Fontana.
Formula One in Spa, Belgium Pole sitter Jenson Button led the Belgian Grand Prix from start to finish for his second victory of the season.
Points leader Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton made early exits after a spectacular crash at the start. Romain Grosjean went for a small gap and clipped Hamilton. That sent both cars spinning and led to Grosjean's car flying over Alonso's car, which then took out Sergio Perez. All four drivers escaped unhurt.
NHRA in Clermont, Ind. Steady rain and standing water led to the cancellation of the last two qualifying sessions for today's final eliminations of the U.S. Nationals.