Hamlin Secures Top-Five Finish in Regular Season Finale at Richmond
Denny Hamlin finished fifth in Saturday night’s regular season finale at Richmond Raceway, overcoming a tight #11 FedEx Express Toyota to position himself at the front of the field in the closing laps of the 300-mile event to score his 11th top-five of the 2017 season.
During the race’s first two Stages, Hamlin communicated that his #11 Toyota Camry was very tight, and he was relegated to mid-pack as he struggled to find his preferred line around the .75-mile speedway. Hamlin made his comeback in the race’s final 200-lap segment, working his way up to 10th as the field’s final green-flag pit stops cycled through.
A late-race caution that appeared with only three laps to go gave Hamlin an opportunity to pit with the leaders, and he returned to the track in eighth for the overtime restart after a swift stop by his #11 FedEx crew. Hamlin propelled himself into third on the final dash to finish, and even after contact with second-place driver, Martin Truex Jr., held on to his standing within the top-five.
“We both drove in really, really deep,” said Hamlin. “When I got on the brakes, the splitter slammed down on the ground, shot me up the track into him. We weren’t racing for the win or anything, but it’s unfortunate. He’s a great teammate of ours.”
Hamlin started second alongside Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and pole sitter, Matt Kenseth, to begin Saturday’s event, but spent the majority of the 400-lap race battling an ill-handling car, falling as far back as 23rd during the early laps of the final Stage.
“We struggled all day, but we got a little bit better there at the end,” said Hamlin. “Obviously night the day I was hoping for, but now our FedEx team can really focus on the Playoffs and earning the Playoff points we need to be strong contenders.”
Following Saturday’s finish at Richmond, Hamlin is seventh in the 2017 NASCAR Playoffs standings, 40 points behind Playoffs leader, Martin Truex Jr. The Series prepares to head to Chicago for the Playoffs’ kick-off race at Chicagoland on Sunday, September 17th.