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Hamlin crosses finish line first, Almirola wins AT&T 250

Jun 24, 2007 - 7:17 AM WEST ALLIS, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- Denny Hamlin crossed the finish line first but rookie teammate Aric Almirola earned the spoils.

Almirola was credited with the victory in Saturday night's Busch Series AT&T 250, even though Hamlin was driving the car at the end. The 23-year-old rookie captured his first career series victory after starting the race for Hamlin.

Under Nextel Cup guidelines, Almirola had to start the race when he captured the pole in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo during the qualifying run.

The second-year driver was behind the wheel because Hamlin arrived late to the track. The helicopter transporting Hamlin was unable to land because cars were parked on the helicopter landing pad.

However, on lap 59, Hamlin replaced Almirola in the cockpit and began the long process of getting back in contention. Because of the driver switch, Hamlin was a lap down when he entered the race.

After working his way through the field, Hamlin finally caught up at lap 144 and later gain possession of the lead after a series of caution flags.

Hamlin then held off Scott Wimmer, who finished second in a Chevrolet, and Jason Leffler who was third in a Toyota Camry. It was Wimmer's fourth straight top-five finish.

It was also the first time a replacement driver won a Nextel event since 1977, when Darrell Waltrip won the 1977 Talladega 500 in place of Donnie Allison.

Rookie Brad Coleman finished fourth in a Chevy while Jason Keller rounded out the top five in a Ford Fusion.

Points leader Carl Edwards, who led for most of the race, cut a tire late and finished eighth.

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