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Hamlin wins Cup race for 8th consecutive year

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm •  Published: November 17, 2013

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Denny Hamlin had given up on extending his streak.

After winning at least one race for seven consecutive seasons in NASCAR's top series, Hamlin figured his run would end along with the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Think again.

Hamlin salvaged something from an otherwise forgettable year Sunday by holding off Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and winning the finale.

"As bad as the year is, we can take a little solace in this finish," Hamlin said.

Little went right for Hamlin in 2013. He broke a vertebra in his lower back in a last-lap crash at California in March, sat out the next four races and then dealt with pain and discomfort for months.

He started to "turn the corner" around the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in early September, but had conceded the end of his streak.

"It's a horrible year," he said. "I was going to be counting down the laps. You hate to say you give up, but you kind of concede the fact that we weren't going to keep the streak alive of a win every year."

Hamlin started believing he had a chance early in the 400-mile finale. He started fifth, fell back to the middle of the pack and then quickly drove his way back to the front. He spent the rest of the race challenging for the lead and was up front when it really matters — in the closing laps.

He celebrated with crew chief Darian Grubb, team President J.D. Gibbs and crewmembers — as well as his wife and young daughter.

For Hamlin, the scene was as much about relief as reward.

"It weighs on you," he said. "At this point, what I really love about this win is that you appreciate it so much more because you went through the bad times. I was just so fortunate for the first seven years of my career to not really have a horrible season. We were always able to win races every year.

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