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Hamlin Powers No. 20 Car to Ninth 2008 Victory

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 4, 2008) -- Same car. Same racetrack. Different driver.

The cast of characters in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 Toyota is such a successful game of musical chairs that even Dale Earnhardt Jr. got confused.

Tony Stewart took the No. 20 Camry to victory lane to open the NASCAR Nationwide Series season at Daytona International Speedway in February. The car, sans Stewart, returned to the winner's circle in Friday night's Winn-Dixie 250 with Denny Hamlin behind the wheel.

Hamlin held off teammate Kyle Busch, Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer in a green-white-checkered-flag finish -- the seventh of the season in the series -- to win his second Nationwide race in the No. 20 car and his third of the season overall. In his final appearance this season in the car, which has won nine races with four different drivers, Hamlin notched the eighth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of his career.

Busch stayed in line behind his teammate over the final two laps and came home second, followed by Earnhardt, Bowyer and Brad Keselowski. Kasey Kahne, Scott Wimmer, David Stremme, David Ragan and Mike Bliss completed the top 10.

"I thought Tony was in the 20 all night," Earnhardt said. "I didn't know Denny was in it -- so congratulations, Denny."

The confusion carried over into Earnhardt's post-race interview.

"It was hard to beat those guys," Earnhardt said. "Kyle and Tony were both really fast."

"I think the reason for the confusion was that the colors (on the car) are the ones (Tony) usually runs," Hamlin said of the candy-apple-red No. 20 machine. "But my head's a lot smaller than his."

Earnhardt was third, closing on Hamlin and Busch when Colin Braun's spin off Turn 2 caused the third caution of the race on Lap 99, setting up the two-lap sprint to the finish and turning a three-car race for the win into a free-for-all. Even though Earnhardt hung back on the restart on Lap 104, the top three positions didn't change during the final two laps of a race that went five laps beyond its scheduled distance.

Hamlin was grateful for his teammate's help in getting to the finish line without a challenge.

"It feels good to do this in my final ride in the 20 car," Hamlin said. "I've got to thank Kyle for sticking with me there at the end. The only way we don't win this is if Kyle goes for the win. I knew Kyle could go for the win and maybe not succeed, but I knew, as long as he stuck on my bumper, we'd have a 1-2 finish."

Notes: Hamlin led 29 of the 105 laps, one more than Keselowski. Bowyer expanded his points lead to 202 over second-place Keselowski and to 218 over third-place Carl Edwards, the defending series champion. Kerry Earnhardt qualified 10th and finished 17th in his first NASCAR Nationwide Series start since the same race last year. . . Polesitter Bryan Clauson, 19, a part-time NASCAR Nationwide Series driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, came home 19th.

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