Martinsville – Post Race Report
Denny Hamlin qualifies first, finishes 7th at Martinsville
Denny Hamlin was looking forward to another great weekend at Martinsville after earning his fifth pole position of the season on Friday with a qualifying lap of 19.013 seconds (99.595 mph) on a track where he has won four times previously.
"I knew we were going to be pretty strong," he said after his qualifying run. "I knew we had a shot at the pole and beyond that I think our car was pretty good in race trim as well. So, usually anytime we qualify on the pole it usually bodes well for us on Sunday and hopefully this weekend is no different from that."
On race day, the #11 FedEx One Rate Toyota Camry led the first two laps but Denny reported the car was tight from the start and settled back into fifth where he stayed for the first 50 laps. When the second yellow came out on lap 87 he pitted from seventh for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and some wedge in the right rear to fix a pushing condition, restarting 18th. But one lap after the race went green again another caution came out for an accident in which Denny was hit from behind, suffering right front fender damage. Crew Chief Darian Grubb and the crew made quick repairs to keep Denny on the lead lap with the FedEx One Rate Toyota restarting 24th.
Lap 202 saw another caution and Denny pitted for fuel and a wedge adjustment to gain track position, restarting ninth. 20 laps later there was another yellow and Denny stayed out to restart seventh but after another half dozen laps the caution flew again with Grubb calling the #11 car in for four new tires and a full tank of fuel.
By lap 275 Denny had driven the FedEx One Rate Toyota up to eighth and 10 laps later, when the next caution flag waived, he pitted for four tires, fuel and two rounds up on the track bar as the car was still too tight. Darian Grubb and the FedEx crew did another great job to get Denny out fifth for the restart.
For the next 130 laps Denny ran in the top five on the tricky half-mile oval, moving to first on lap 340 after leader Jeff Gordon pitted during a caution caused by debris. On lap 415 he pitted from fourth for fuel, four tires and an air pressure adjustment, restarting fifth before eventually fading to seventh when the checkers finally flew.
Jeff Gordon was the race winner with Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth second and Clint Bowyer third.
"We had a pretty good car and Darian and the FedEx One Rate crew really worked hard to keep us running with the leaders today," said Hamlin, "but toward the end of the race we didn't have enough forward bite off the corner to challenge for the win. The engine was strong and it was another top 10 finish so we'll take it and see if we can get to victory lane at Texas."
The next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is Sunday, November 3rd at Texas Motor Speedway.