After running out of gas in the closing laps of last week’s race in Joliet, Illinois, Denny Hamlin did the unthinkable - he promised a win at Loudon in the Sylvania 300. Hamlin later tried to soft-pedal his commitment, adding words to the effect of, “as long as the crew delivers a winning race car,” but it was too late to silence his critics.

It wasn’t too late for Hamlin on Sunday, as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver made good on his promise.  In fact, he made the win look easy, leading the race for much of its 300 laps, which saw only 4 cautions (most for debris) for a total of 17 yellow-flag laps.

At the finish line, it was Hamlin, followed by Hendrick Motorsport driver (and new Chase for the Championship points leader) Jimmie Johnson, followed by Loudon pole-sitter Jeff Gordon in third place.

Under normal circumstances, third place would be a respectable finish. For Gordon, however, it gets him just two points in a now-45 point deficit from Chase leader Johnson. Mathematically, Gordon can still pull off a championship win, although the likelihood of such a miracle happening seems to grow more distant with each race.

Long-time NASCAR fans will likely complain that this year’s Sylvania 300 lacked the fender-banging action that Loudon fans have gotten used to. Indeed, it seemed to be a kinder, gentler race on Sunday than in past years, with drivers focused more on preserving race cars than on any long-standing feuds.

Heading into next week’s race in Dover, Delaware, Jimmie Johnson is the series points leader with 2,096 in the bank, followed by Brad Keselowski (2,095), Denny Hamlin (2,089), Tony Stewart (2,086) and Kasey Kahne (2,081). Clint Bowyer fans will be quick to point out that their driver also has 2,081 points and remains in contention for the championship.