Hamlin Rallies for Third-Place Finish in Phoenix
Denny Hamlin overcame an early race pit road penalty to record a third-place finish in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, rallying from the tail end of the field in the event won by Kevin Harvick.
Hamlin lined up sixth for the final two-lap shootout to the checkered flag, and used fresh right-side tires and the preferred high line to pick off three spots by the finish line. Harvick edged Carl Edwards in a photo finish, followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"It was a difficult day for us on a very challenging track, but we were able to overcome a little bit of adversity and put together a strong race," said Hamlin, who now has two top-five finishes in four races this season. "It was one of the best cars I have had in a long time at Phoenix, and that gives our FedEx team confidence knowing that we can run well here in the fall if we're still in Chase contention."
Hamlin started third in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, and stayed among the top-five throughout the first run on the flat, one-mile oval. However, a penalty during the team's first pit stop for an "uncontrolled tire" sent Hamlin to the tail end of the field for the ensuing restart. The 35-year-old calmly worked his way through traffic, picking off positions on his march back towards the front.
It looked as though the team would settle for a fifth-place finish, as Hamlin held off a hard-charging Chase Elliott in the closing laps during a long green flag run. But, a caution with just five laps remaining bunched the field and set up the thrilling 'green-white-checkered' result.
The finish moved Hamlin up two spots to sixth in the NASCAR standings after Phoenix, 23 points behind Harvick after four of 26 regular season races.
The Series returns to action at Auto Club (Calif.) Speedway on Sunday, March 20.