Hamlin Continues Road-Course Success, Earns Top-Five at Sonoma
Denny Hamlin finished fourth in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, charging his way through the field in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota on two separate occasions to ultimately capture his second career-best finish at the 1.99-mile California road course.
Following a fourth-place finish during Stage 2 of Sunday’s 110-lap race, the #11 team elected not to pit during the Stage break, so Hamlin led the field to green to begin the event’s final 60-lap segment. Shortly after on lap 70, the #11 FedEx crew decided to cycle through for their green-flag pit stop, and Hamlin returned to the field in 11th, quick to resume his charge to the front of the field.
He picked off one competitor at a time as the laps ticked without a single caution, making his way to second with only 17 laps remaining. Hamlin fought to hold onto his second-place position and narrow the gap between him and the ultimate race leader Kevin Harvick, but he lost a couple of positions to competitors on fresher tires in the closing laps.
“We didn’t have quite enough at the end,” said Hamlin, who captured his fourth top-five finish of the 2017 season at Sonoma. “We did have real short-run speed, but we didn’t really have great long-run speed. We had good pit strategy and really passed a lot of cars today, and that’s about what we had.”
Hamlin started today’s 218.9-mile race from the 14th position, navigating swiftly through the field – and narrowly missing multiple wrecks – to finish fifth at the end of Stage 1. His performance during Stage 2 produced similar success to earn himself a total of 13 extra Championship points during the race’s first two Stages.
Hamlin also led 11 laps at Sonoma after taking off from the top spot at the beginning of Stage 3, triggering a $1,221 donation to Safe Kids Worldwide through the Delivering Laps for FedEx Cares program. After 17 races this season, $17,982 has been donated to Safe Kids as a result of Denny’s on-track performance.
Hamlin’s top-five finish at Sonoma keeps the #11 FedEx team ninth in the current NASCAR standings. The Series returns to Daytona International Speedway next Saturday, July 1st, for the Coke Zero 400.