Hamlin Advances to Round of 8 at Talladega
Denny Hamlin edged Kurt Busch for third place by 0.006 seconds in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway to advance to the Round of 8 in the Chase via a tiebreaker with Austin Dillon in a thrilling final lap in the 500-mile event won by Joey Logano.
Hamlin entered the day six points below the cut line of advancing in the Chase playoffs, and short of a win in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, needed help to move on. He spent the majority of the afternoon at the front of the large draft pack on the 2.66-mile, high-banked speedway, and as the laps clicked, found himself in a battle with Dillon for the final playoff spot.
"We finally had something go right for us when we needed it most in the Chase," said Hamlin, whose third-place finish bested Dillon's sixth in the Round of 12 as the tiebreaker. "We are playing with house money now, and our best tracks are coming up. We have nothing to lose and I'm excited to get to Martinsville next weekend."
The FedEx Racing Team was virtually on its own Sunday at Talladega. Hamlin's three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates -- Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth -- just needed to avoid catastrophe to advance in the playoffs, and rode at the tail end of the field throughout the day. That left Hamlin at the front to battle for his Chase life against a bevy of two and three-car organizations.
The race was not without its share of drama for Hamlin, who clipped the infield grass and received a pit road speeding penalty early in the race during his first green flag pit stop. Fortunately, a timely caution shortly after allowed the #11 to regain track position and stay in the lead pack.
Hamlin lined up fourth for the final overtime green-white-checkered restart, and edged Kurt Busch at the finish line by a nose. Brian Scott finished second.
The eight drivers advancing in the Chase are Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Edwards, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Logano, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Points are reset and the field is even heading into the next race on the calendar, at Martinsville Speedway, on Oct. 30.