Hamlin Seventh in Pocono's Rain-Delayed, Fog Shortened Race
Denny Hamlin finished seventh in Monday's rain-postponed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, posting his 10th top-10 of the season in the #11 FedEx Toyota. Rookie Chris Buescher was declared the winner after the race cut short by 22 laps due to a fog bank that blanketed the 2.5-mile speedway.
Hamlin lined up eighth for the final restart with 51 laps to go and made a bold three-wide pass in Turn 1 to move up to seventh.
With enough fuel to make it to the checkers, the FedEx team was poised to challenge the leaders for the win. However, the unanticipated fog moved in quickly and was too thick for the race to continue, foiling the team's hopes.
"My FedEx Toyota was pretty fast," said Hamlin. "It was fast by itself for a few laps and then we'd lose a little bit of speed, but I think we had a top-three or four car today, we just needed those last 22 laps."
Hamlin started fourth and immediately jumped up to third before falling back to 17th after Paul Menard had a transmission issue directly in front of Hamlin on a restart. Hamlin spent the next 60 laps mired in the field, just inside the top-20.
Hamlin's day began to turn around at the halfway point in the race when crew chief Mike Wheeler made a strategic call to stay out during a caution to gain track position. Hamlin restarted fifth, but as the laps clicked, the tank was going dry on the #11 and the FedEx team was preparing to pit when a brief rain shower moved over the track bringing out a welcome caution for the team.
The team's strategy was set for the run to the checkered flag and Hamlin was happy with the handling of the car, but mother nature had other plans and after an 80 minute red flag for heavy fog, NASCAR declared the race official 22 laps short of the scheduled 160 laps. The seventh place finish moved Hamlin up one spot to ninth in the NASCAR standings after 21 of 26 regular season races.
The series returns to action Sunday, August 7 at Watkins Glen, NY.