Hamlin Earns First Stage Win of 2018 Season, Finishes 12th at Martinsville.
Denny Hamlin finished 12th in Monday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, leading 111 laps and collecting his first Stage win of the 2018 season during the 500-lap event around the Virginia half-mile. Hamlin spent the race’s first two Stages racing within the top five until the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota sustained slight damage late in the race’s final Stage that prevented him for making a run at the checkered.
Hamlin lined up fifth for the race’s final Stage, finally settling into fourth on lap 351. By lap 380, fifth-place contender Kevin Harvick caught up to Hamlin and challenged him for his position, and the hard-fought battle between the two competitors ultimately resulted in a damaged front bumper on the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota.
A caution appeared shortly after the incident on lap 385, giving the #11 team a chance to assess the damage on pit road. The crew refreshed the #11 with four tires and fuel during the scheduled stop, however Hamlin was forced to visit pit road for a second time to fix the nose damage and avoid the car from further overheating. The additional stop cost Hamlin valuable track position, and he restarted 15th to complete the race’s final 109 laps. Hamlin picked up three spots during the long green-flag run, finding himself 12th when the checkered flag flew.
“We definitely improved our car from Saturday’s practices to get more speed out of it,” said Hamlin, a five-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner at Martinsville. “We still have to work on a few things, but this is definitely a step in the right direction from where we’ve been in the past couple of races here, and overall, I’m really happy with our FedEx Camry. We didn’t necessarily get the good finish we deserved, but all-in-all, it was a decent day, and we’ll keep building from this.”
Hamlin started Monday’s race from sixth place and propelled himself to the race lead by lap 27. He maintained the top spot for the remainder of the 130-lap segment, collecting his first Stage win of the season ahead of Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer (the eventual race winner).
Hamlin led 111 laps during the 263-mile race, adding $12,321 to the total donation amount to Safe Kids Worldwide through the Delivering Laps for FedEx Cares program. For every lap Hamlin leads this season, FedEx donates $111 to Safe Kids, a nonprofit working to protect kids on the road, on behalf of the #11 FedEx Team. At the end of this season, the Denny Hamlin Foundation will also match the total donation to Safe Kids.
After his 12th-place finish at Martinsville, Hamlin remains sixth in the overall NASCAR standings. The Series will return to action on Sunday, April 8, at Texas Motor Speedway following the upcoming NASCAR off weekend.