Bristol – Post Race Report
Late-Race Tire Puncture Spoils Top-10 Run for FedEx Racing Team at Bristol
Denny Hamlin led a race-high 117 laps Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, but a cut tire with less than 10 laps remaining forced him to limp to the checkered flag in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, finishing 23rd in the event won by Kasey Kahne.
Hamlin lined up fourth for the race's final restart on Lap 461 of 500, but fell a few spots as the outside groove didn't get momentum following contact prior to the green flag. After settling into sixth place, Hamlin felt a right-front tire going down and had to slow his pace to keep from spinning. The tire finally blew with two laps to go, and Hamlin finished two laps down.
"It was a disappointing finish to a great run for this FedEx team," said Hamlin, following the race. "We had one of the cars to beat today and led a bunch of laps, but just couldn't get up there at the end to challenge for the win. The finish isn't indicative of how we ran all day, but we'll move on and try to get them next week."
Hamlin qualified third and ran among the top-10 throughout the afternoon at the half-mile concrete bullring. He took the lead for the first time on Lap 64 and led 117 of the next 146 laps, and seemed poised to defend his race win at Bristol in August 2012.
Crew chief Darian Grubb used a variety of pit strategies during the race, including a pair of left-side tire changes, to help keep track position, as Hamlin remained among the top-five as the laps clicked.
However, just before the green flag for the final restart, the cars on the outside lane bottlenecked and made contact, damaging the nose of the #11 Toyota, causing an extremely tight condition for Hamlin for the final 40 lap run, made worse by the punctured tire.
The finish dropped Hamlin two spots to sixth in the NASCAR standings following Bristol, 41 points behind leader Brad Keselowski. The Series returns to action on March 24 at Auto Club (Calif.) Speedway.