Martinsville – Pre Race Report
Denny Hamlin charged from 18th to second after the final restart with 11 laps remaining in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway and battled for the lead coming to the checkered flag, but contact sent the #11 FedEx Express Toyota spinning into the infield and hard into the inside retaining wall, relegating the team to a 25th-place finish in the event won by Kyle Busch. The impact resulted in a lower back injury for Hamlin, who was airlifted to a local hospital and diagnosed with a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra. Hamlin qualified on the pole and ran among the top-10 throughout the majority of the 200-lap race around the two-mile southern California oval. He pitted for four tires during a late-race caution, but a penalty for a missed lug nut brought the #11 machine back in, forcing Hamlin to restart 26th in the running order. After picking off a handful of cars before another caution with 14 laps to go, Hamlin came back down pit road for another set of tires, setting up the 11-lap dash to the finish line. With the fresh rubber, Hamlin used the wide racing surface at Fontana to slice his way through the field to the front. It took just four laps to move into the top-three, and two more to get to the back bumper of race leader Joey Logano. The two jostled for position for the remaining laps before tangling in Turn 4, allowing Busch by for the victory. The finish dropped Hamlin from sixth to 10th in the NASCAR standings after five of 26 regular season races.
The injury sustained at Auto Club Speedway will sideline Hamlin for a few weeks, and veteran Mark Martin will substitute in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota in Sunday's race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Martin has two wins in 48 career Cup Series starts at Martinsville, winning in 1992 and 2000 at the famed half-mile paper clip. He owns 25 career top-10 finishes and three poles at the track. Sunday's race will mark the first time since October 2005 that someone other than Hamlin will drive the #11 FedEx car in a race, a total of 264 events. Hamlin made his Sprint Cup debut at Kansas Speedway on October 9, 2005.
Fort Myers, Fla., Along for the Ride in Martinsville
The FedEx Freight service center in Fort Myers, Fla., will be recognized for outstanding performance with its 'FMY' code letters on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Crew Chief Chat – Darian Grubb – Martinsville SpeedwayHow will the #11 FedEx team approach the next few races?
"Obviously, our primary concern is getting Denny healed up and back in the FedEx car when he's ready. We have to thank Mark (Martin) and Brian (Vickers) for filling in these next few weeks, and we believe that we can be just as competitive, run up front and win races. Our team is a strong, tight-knit group, and this will bring us even closer together. The goal is to move the #11 car up in the owner's standings in the next few races, and when Denny returns, do everything in our power to get both him and our team in the Chase."