Fontana – Pre Race Report
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. 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. The finish dropped Hamlin two spots to sixth in the NASCAR standings following Bristol, 41 points behind leader Brad Keselowski.
The Series returns to the west coast for Sunday's 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Hamlin qualified on the pole at Auto Club last year -- his first of three poles in 2012 -- and led two laps in the rain-shortened event before finishing 11th. He was in second behind eventual winner Tony Stewart when the rain started, and with a car capable of winning the race if the weather cooperated, Grubb brought Hamlin to pit road in hopes the strategy paid off. However, the race never restarted, and the FedEx team wound up 11th. Hamlin has four top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Fontana, including a career-best third-place run in August 2008. He has led at least one lap in four of the last five races at the two-mile track.
Las Vegas Ramp Along for the Ride in Fontana
The FedEx Express ramp in Las Vegas will be recognized for its excellent year over year performance with its 'LASR' code letters on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota this weekend at Auto Club Speedway.
Hamlin Conversation – Auto Club SpeedwayWhat do you need to breakthrough for that first win at Auto Club Speedway?
"Fontana has turned into one of my favorite tracks. The surface has worn a little bit and you can literally run from the white line all the way to the wall, searching for where your car works best. We haven't had a ton of success there, and we have had some bad luck with tires or getting caught in wrecks, and I'm still looking for that first win. It's big and wide and fast, and a lot of fun for the drivers. You need a lot of horsepower because the straightaways are long, and that place is tough on motors."