2019 Post-Race Reports
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Hamlin Overcomes Penalty to Finish Fifth at Kentucky
A fast FedEx Freight Toyota helped Denny Hamlin battle back from a penalty to score a top-five finish at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night. The #11 team had a car capable of winning – leading laps and running in the top five for much of the race – but once again had to overcome a pit road penalty that sent the team to the back of the pack.
The race-changing penalty came late in Stage 2. Hamlin had been running second before pitting for two tires and fuel and subsequently incurring a penalty from NASCAR for an uncontrolled tire. After completing his pass-through penalty, he sat in 22nd and a lap down to the leader.
After getting the “Lucky Dog” pass to return to the lead lap, Hamlin spent Stage 3 gradually picking off positions until he returned to the top five – including leading five laps before having to peel off to pit. A late-race caution led to a green-white-checkered overtime finish, but Hamlin stood his ground in the top five and crossed the line in fifth as Kurt Busch scored the win.
“We had a fast FedEx Freight Toyota, but we got hurt by a penalty,” Hamlin said. “The reason we were able to rally is because we had a fast car and some good restarts at the end, and we were able to fight our way back up there. I’m proud of the speed we bring to the race track every week, but we’ve still got to work on our execution.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to New England on Sunday, July 21, for a 301-lap event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Late Race Crash Relegates Hamlin to 26th at Daytona
Denny Hamlin finished 26th in the #11 FedEx Office Toyota after being collected in a late-race multi-car wreck in Sunday’s rain-postponed race at Daytona International Speedway. Following a lengthy weather delay, 20-year-old Justin Haley was declared the race winner, 33 laps short of the scheduled 160-lap distance.
Hamlin started sixth and tried various drafting lines to try and improve his position, eventually finishing eighth in Stage 1. Stage 2 was much of the same, although the #11 fell back as far as 20th in the field before making a comeback, crossing the line 11th at the conclusion of the segment.
Lining up 14th for the final segment, Hamlin began his charge through the field, taking the #11 car three-wide in traffic, bold moves by Hamlin propelled the FedEx car to the lead after just 17 laps of racing in the stage. After leading five laps, Hamlin was at the front of the bottom line of cars when Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer made a run on the outside. As the two drivers jockeyed for position, they tangled in front of Hamlin who had nowhere to go and was collected in the ensuing melee that claimed a total of 18 cars.
The FedEx team worked on the damaged car during multiple pit stops but lost two laps in the process. During the caution, NASCAR was forced to red-flag the race due to lightning in the area. Following two hours and 12 minutes of lightning and rain, the race was declared official.
“It’s really unfortunate that we were caught up in someone else’s mess,” said Hamlin. “I was working the draft all day and finally made the right moves to get the FedEx Toyota to the front, we were in the perfect position, only to get taken out just before the race was stopped.”
The finish kept Hamlin in sixth in the NASCAR standings following Daytona. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads next to Kentucky Motor Speedway for a 400-mile event on Saturday, July 13.
Hamlin, FedEx Racing Finish 15th at Chicagoland Speedway
Denny Hamlin finished 15th in Sunday’s rain-delayed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, following an on-track incident in Stage 2 that caused significant damage to the #11 FedEx Express Toyota in the event won by Alex Bowman.
During a pit stop under caution on Lap 105, NASCAR deemed the FedEx crew had an “uncontrolled tire,” which forced Hamlin to give up his fourth-place position to restart at the tail end of the field. The lost track position put #11 machine back in traffic, and Hamlin spent the majority of the second segment mired back in the field.
Late in Stage 2, Hamlin got a huge run coming off Turn 4, and made contact with Daniel Suarez, causing heavy right-front damage to the #11 Camry. He limped to the stage break and pitted multiple times for repairs. Ultimately, the damage caused an ill-handling race car, and Hamlin rallied to finish 15th in the event.
“We had a very strong FedEx Camry this weekend, but unfortunately, had a penalty in the second stage that ruined our day,” said Hamlin, the 2015 winner at Chicagoland. “Track position is so important, and once we lost that, our car didn’t handle quite as well and we were back in traffic when we got into the 41 (Suarez). It was a tough end of the day for us, but we’ll take the positives and move on.”
Hamlin started ninth, and was up to eighth by Lap 11 when lightning and a strong storm system rolled through the track. The race was red-flagged for nearly three hours.
Upon resumption, Hamlin pitted for fresh tires, and crew chief Chris Gabehart employed exemplary pit strategy in Stage 1. Hamlin made his second stop with just five laps to go in the stage, and with others on varying strategies, he assumed the lead. The caution flew two laps later for an on-track incident, and Hamlin won the stage. It was his third segment win of the season and came with an additional playoff point.
The finish kept Hamlin in sixth in the NASCAR standings following Chicagoland, 103 points behind leader Joey Logano after 17 of 26 regular season races. The Series returns to action on Saturday, July 6 at Daytona International Speedway.
Hamlin Charges to Fifth-Place Finish at Sonoma
Extra twists and turns added to the Sonoma Raceway road course didn’t stop Denny Hamlin from earning his seventh top-five finish and his second stage win of the 2019 season. Hamlin finished fifth Sunday after climbing back from outside the top 15 three times.
The No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota started sixth for the 90-lap race at the 12-turn, 2.52-mile course. The circuit included the sweeping downhill corner called “The Carousel” for the first time for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 1997.
The team’s strategy had them pitting later than most of the leaders and caused Hamlin to have to charge back through the field three times without the help of any cautions. But the strategy also led to a stage win, with Hamlin taking the green-and-white checkered flag to end Stage 2.
“We had a really fast FedEx Camry and I drove it as hard as I could,” Hamlin said. “We committed to a strategy to get stage points. So, we might’ve given up a shot at a win, but it got us a top-five at a really challenging course and the most points of anyone in the race. I’m proud of our effort.”
The series returns to oval racing next weekend with a 400-mile event at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, June 30.
Hamlin Finishes 11th at Rain-Delayed Michigan Race
A Monday race day ended up in an 11th-place finish for Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota team at Michigan International Speedway. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was delayed one day due to persistent rain over the two-mile oval throughout the day Sunday.
Hamlin took the late-afternoon green flag in fourth. He quickly moved to the lead for three laps before grip became an issue and he fell back outside the top 10. The FedEx Freight team tried various strategic pit moves throughout the race – and even led two additional laps – but a tight-handling race car kept Hamlin from being able to truly challenge the leaders.
The #11 team did make up some ground in the third and final stage. After restarting in 25th with 66 laps to go, Hamlin fought his way into the top 15 and was knocking on the door of the top 10. Despite a late caution that bunched the field back up for a green-white-checkered finish, he finished just outside the top 10 in 11th.
“Our FedEx Camry wasn’t quite handling the way we needed it to tonight,” Hamlin said. “But considering some of the challenges we had, an 11th-place finish is better than where we could have wound up. We’ll definitely learn from it and come back better in August.”
The series takes a week off and then returns to action at the road course of Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 23.
Hamlin Ends Tough-Luck Streak with Sixth-Place Finish at Pocono
Denny Hamlin earned a sixth-place finish at Pocono Raceway Sunday, putting behind him a stretch of races where he finished outside the top 15 due to mechanical issues or accidents.
Hamlin started the 400-mile event in sixth and raced inside the top 10 for most of the afternoon. Passing was difficult, but varying pit strategies mixed up the field multiple times, including putting the FedEx Office Toyota in the lead for a lap. At least five different cars had incidents involving cut tires or contact with the wall, but the #11 team avoided trouble and executed a clean race.
“We had better tires than everyone else at the end, we just couldn’t pass them once we ran up to them,” Hamlin said. “But it was a fairly smooth race for us and a top-10 finish. It was what we needed after a rough stretch the last few weeks, so I’m proud of the effort from our FedEx team and we’ll keep it going next week in Michigan.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads next to high-speed Michigan International Speedway for a 400-mile event on Sunday, June 9.
Fast FedEx Toyota Ends Up 17th at Charlotte after Last-Lap Wreck
Denny Hamlin’s up-and-down evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday ended on the down side after he spun and wrecked on the last lap of the Coca-Cola 600. His FedEx Ground Toyota had been fast all evening, leading 21 laps and repeatedly climbing back through the field after multiple incidents set him back.
Hamlin started in 20th and immediately knew he had a fast car. He finished Stage 1 in second place, and quickly took the lead after the start of Stage 2, where he stayed for 21 laps. But the remaining three stages were full of incidents that knocked Denny toward the back – multiple blown tires plus a pit road miscue where he missed his pit and had to back up. Each time, he rebounded and pushed his way back toward the front.
The team had fought back from 19th place, one lap down, in the final stage to climb back into the top 10 for the final laps. But a last-lap incident sent the #11 hard into the inside wall. Denny was able to drive the heavily damaged car over the finish line to be credited with a 17th-place finish.
“We had a really fast FedEx Toyota all night,” Hamlin said. “It’s crazy how many cars we passed over the course of the entire race, repeatedly going from the back to the front. Unfortunately, our finish doesn’t reflect how good of a car we had. I’m proud of the speed this team brought to the racetrack, though, and it should help us moving forward.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads next to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania for a 400-mile event at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, June 2.
Hamlin Retires Early from Wild All-Star Race
Pushing and shoving caused a lot of damage in Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race, and Denny Hamlin was among the victims. The driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota was credited with an 18th-place finish after having to take his damaged car to the garage with nine laps to go in the race.
Hamlin started 12th in the non-points event at Charlotte Motor Speedway and fought a tight-handling car, as well as difficulty passing in traffic, for the first half of the race. He had moved into the top 10 to start the fourth and final stage but spun and wrecked after a shove from behind from Ryan Blaney.
The team made repairs and sent Hamlin back on track, but he took the car to the garage several laps later when the damage was too much to overcome.
“It just wasn’t our night,” said Hamlin. “Track position was hard to come by early on, and then once we started working our way toward the front, we got bounced around and spun. We’ll learn from it and be ready to come back here next weekend to go 600 miles.”
The series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Memorial Day weekend to run the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 26.
Hamlin Endures Challenging Night in Kansas for 16th-Place Finish
Denny Hamlin finished 16th in Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway in a night that included a blown tire, a difficult-handling car and an overtime finish.
The #11 FedEx Freight Toyota started the race in 11th, but a blown tire on Lap 59 caused right-rear damage that required extensive repairs and put Hamlin back in 33rd and a lap down to the leader. The handling of the car throughout the race – too tight early and too loose late – made it difficult to regain track position, but Denny and the team managed to fight back for a 16th-place in a green-white-checkered overtime finish.
“We really didn’t have the car we needed tonight,” Hamlin said. “We struggled with handling, and the blown tire really set us back. I’m proud of our FedEx team for fixing it up and working on adjustments, though. We wound up with a better result than how much of our race went.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads home to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the series’ All-Star Race on Saturday, May 18.
Hamlin Finishes 21st at Dover
Denny Hamlin finished 21st in Monday’s rain-postponed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, in the event won by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. Hamlin cut a right-rear tire after contact with the wall shortly after the start of the final stage, sending the #11 into a spin and losing multiple laps to the leaders.
“It was a tough day for our FedEx team,” said Hamlin, following the race. “We missed the balance on our car to start the race, and spent the first half making as many changes as we could. Then, we finally got some track position and I brushed the wall which cut a tire. Overall, an eventful day.”
Hamlin started eighth but immediately felt something amiss in the #11 car’s handling. He was battling a loose condition throughout Stage 1. Crew Chief Chris Gabehart called for a host of changes during each pit stop to try to tighten the car up as Hamlin battled to stay on the lead lap.
The car started to come to life at the end of Stage 2, and after a quick pit stop during the break, Hamlin lined up 14th to start the final stage. He rocketed up to 11th on the restart, but brushed the outside wall in Turn 4 making a three-wide pass. The damage seemed insignificant until his right-rear tire came apart less than a dozen laps later.
The finish dropped Hamlin to fourth in the NASCAR standings following Dover, behind leader Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. The Series returns to action on Saturday, May 11 at Kansas Speedway.
Talladega Wrecks End Hamlin’s Day Early
Denny Hamlin’s race at Talladega Superspeedway ended early on Sunday after the FedEx Toyota suffered irreparable damage from multiple on-track incidents.
Hamlin lined up 23rd for the start of the race but had to drop to the back of field after NASCAR cited the #11 team – and seven others – for unapproved pre-race adjustments. He had made his way up to sixth by Lap 11 when he got swept up in a multi-car crash, causing significant front-end and right-side damage.
The team was able to make repairs to send Hamlin back on track, but a blown tire later sent him into the wall on Lap 80. This time, the damage could not be repaired, and Hamlin was forced to retire from the race. He was credited with a 36th-place finish.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate to miss a lot of wrecks on the superspeedway races for the last four or five years, but today was just the day that bad luck dropped on us,” Hamlin said. “It’s just one of those things where I felt like I did everything I was supposed to do, but sometimes in NASCAR racing when somebody else makes a mistake you get caught up in it. That was the case today.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads next to the concrete high banks of Dover International Speedway on Sunday, May 6.
Hamlin Rebounds to Finish Fifth at Richmond
Denny Hamlin overcame a pre-race penalty and a difficult-handling car Saturday night at Richmond Raceway to earn his fourth straight top-five finish.
Hamlin started the race in 30th after his 18th-place qualifying position was disallowed due to pre-race inspection infractions. But once the green flag flew, he went to work in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota and never looked back.
Despite having a tight-handling car, he gradually climbed his way through the field thanks to solid adjustments ordered by crew chief Chris Gabehart and a fast-working pit crew. He finished Stage 1 in 20th and Stage 2 in 14th. The FedEx Camry was handling its best in Stage 3, when Hamlin eventually climbed into the top five. He finished the race in fifth for his sixth top-five result of the season.
“We had our work cut out for us tonight,” Hamlin said. “We started in the back, and our car was tough to handle in traffic. But we made our FedEx Toyota better as the night went on, and our pit crew brought their A-game and gained us some extra spots on pit road. It was a great comeback for our entire team.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has a weekend off for the Easter holiday and then heads to Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 28.
Hamlin Charges Back from Speeding Penalty to Earn Top-Five Finish at Bristol
Denny Hamlin overcame adversity to register a strong finish once again, finishing fifth at Bristol Motor Speedway after a speeding penalty knocked him out of the lead and sent him to the rear of the field.
Hamlin started fifth in the FedEx Freight Toyota and ran in positions from first to 15th in the first half of the 500-lap race. A strategic, two-tire pit stop call by crew chief Chris Gabehart in Stage 3 had Denny positioned to take the lead on a restart with fewer than 100 laps to go, but a pit-road speeding penalty forced him to the rear of the field.
Relegated to 15th, Denny and the #11 FedEx team went to work to get back toward the front. Gabehart gave his driver fresh tires at every opportunity for the remainder of the race, including under a caution when none of the leaders came to pit road. The strategy paid off, with Denny passing his way up to a fifth-place finish.
“We didn’t really have a top-five car for much of the race, but my crew chief gave me options that helped us finish in the top five,” Hamlin said. “I’m mad at myself for speeding, but I’m proud of this team for grinding and having a strategy that allowed me to be aggressive at the end.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads next to Denny’s home track of Richmond Raceway for a Saturday night race on April 13.
Hamlin Overcomes Two Penalties to Win at Texas
Denny Hamlin notched his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season at Texas Motor Speedway after overcoming two penalties in the #11 FedEx Camry during the 334-lap race.
Hamlin took the lead for the final time with just 12 laps remaining, following a pit stop for a splash of fuel that sealed the victory for the FedEx team. However, Hamlin's race up to that point was anything but easy, as he suffered two pit road penalties, one for speeding and one for an uncontrolled tire that would send the #11 to the back of the field each time. But Hamlin had a fast Toyota Camry and the penalties allowed him to show the rest of the field just how good the FedEx car was.
“We had a really fast FedEx Camry today, just really fast,” said Hamlin. “I told the team over the radio when I was making my way through the pack after the penalties, This really stinks because we're probably not going to win with the fastest car. It was fun passing all those cars, it really was. It was great, we had such a fast car and that's how we were able to make up time there at the end.”
Hamlin started the race sixth and maintained his position near the front throughout the early part of the race. But during the teams first stop, Hamlin was caught speeding while exiting pit road, sending the FedEx car to the rear of the field, eventually crossing the line 19th at the conclusion of Stage 1.
Stage 2 saw the #11 put on a show as Hamlin methodically pick off cars as the laps clicked. With nothing to lose, crew chief Chris Gabehart changed up the teams strategy during a late Stage caution, calling Hamlin to pit road for fuel only. The gamble paid off and Hamlin restarted from the lead with 12 laps to go in the segment. Hamlin was able to hold off the cars with fresher tires to take the Stage win.
The Stage 2 win was short lived when the team suffered an uncontrolled tire penalty, sending Hamlin to the back of the pack for the second time. Gabehart changed up the strategy again, pitting Hamlin off sequence with fresh tires for the first stop, and fuel only for the final two pit stops that allowed Hamlin to get his third career Texas Motor Speedway victory.
Hamlin maintained the second spot in the championship standings following the win.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the 500-lap race on Sunday, April 7.
Hamlin Powers Back for Top-Five Finish at Martinsville, Jumps to Second in Points
Denny Hamlin finished fifth at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, pushing his way back through the field after a pit road penalty sent him to the back of the pack midway through the race.
Denny started the 500-lap race in the fifth position. He kept the FedEx Ground Toyota in the top five for the entire first half of the race, reaching as high as second, despite saying the car needed more help gripping the track through the short-track turns.
The #11 team started Stage 3 in 20th – last on the lead lap – after a penalty for an uncontrolled tire in the pit. But, Denny gradually worked his way through the field as he circled the .526-mile, paperclip-shaped oval for the remainder of the race. He made his way into the top five with fewer than 50 laps to go and remained there until the checkered flag flew.
The strong finish allowed Denny to jump two spots to second in the championship standings.
“We had a really good FedEx Toyota,” Hamlin said. “I thought we had a second- to fourth-place car depending on the scenario. But, I lost some spots on pit road, and we had a penalty for an uncontrolled tire and had to go to the back. We had to fight back toward the front, but we made a good day out of it.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next heads to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for a 501-mile race on Sunday, March 31.
Hamlin Battles Back to Earn Seventh-Place Finish at Fontana
Denny Hamlin overcame multiple challenges to earn a seventh-place finish at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Sunday, leading laps and scoring stage points in the 400-mile race.
Denny started the 200-lap event sixth, and took the lead twice within the first 12 laps. He also led for multiple laps late in the first stage.
The later stages of the race dealt the #11 team a couple of setbacks, including a caution flag that flew right after the team pitted under green, putting Denny a lap down, and a speeding penalty that sent him to the back of the pack for a Stage 3 restart. Each time, the team battled back, with a fast FedEx Express Toyota propelling the team back into the top 10.
Sunday’s performance allowed Denny to maintain his fourth-place position in the championship standings after five races.
“Our FedEx Toyota was fast,” said Hamlin. “I was as good or better than everyone else, but we struggled on the long run and had the speeding penalty. And, for the third time this season, we pitted right when the caution came out. But, we bounced back and still got a top-10 finish, so I’m proud of our effort.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads next to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, March 24, for 500 laps of short-track racing.
Hamlin Earns Top-Five Finish in Phoenix
Denny Hamlin scored a fifth-place finish at ISM Raceway in Phoenix on Sunday, pushing his way into the top five in the final stage of the race.
Denny rolled off third in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota to start the 312-mile race but battled a loose condition for much of the event. Still, he remained in the top 10 for most of the event as the team worked on each pit stop to improve the handling of his Camry.
Finding himself in 13th on a late restart, Denny found the speed to pick off car after car until he made his way to fifth with just a handful of laps remaining. With just enough fuel to make it to the end, he maintained his position until the checkered flag waved, earning the FedEx team a top-five finish.
The Phoenix finish puts Denny fourth in the championship standings after four races.
“Our FedEx Toyota was fast,” said Hamlin. “We just got set back by a couple bad restarts and a little issue in the pits toward the end. But we restarted 13th and drove up to fifth. At this racetrack, you just can’t drive through the field when you have a fast car. You have to be patient and wait on everyone else to mess up, or you can run a different line, and our patience paid off with a top-five finish.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wraps up the “West Coast Swing” Sunday, March 17, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Hamlin Manages Top-10 at Las Vegas
Denny Hamlin finished 10th in Sunday's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, unable to overcome a ill-handling #11 FedEx Office Toyota in the race won by Joey Logano.
Hamlin began the day on the front row next to pole-sitter Kevin Harvick and managed to stay in the top-five through Stage 1, finishing fifth. However, as the race progressed through Stage 2, a tight condition began to affect the maneuverability of the #11 machine and Hamlin was unable to gain any spots during the Stage, finishing fifth again.
The FedEx crew made numerous adjustments during the race that would go caution free, excluding the two Stage breaks. During the final stop for the team, Hamlin entered the pits in fifth, but a problem with the air gun cost the team valuable time on pit road and the FedEx Toyota re-joined the race in eighth.
As Hamlin continued to struggle with the balance of the car, holding off challenges from fellow competitors became increasingly more difficult, and as the laps clicked, two cars made successful passes on the #11, resulting in the 10th place finish.
"We had a couple tough pit stops that set us back and we just weren’t fast enough to maintain from there," said Hamlin. "It seemed like we had about a fifth-place car, but we would come in and lose three or four seconds and then some guys would jump us and then it would put me behind some other cars. It’s just so tough to pass once you get strung out that you have to maintain your track position and we kind of struggled with that."
Hamlin dropped two spots to third in the standings following Las Vegas, six points behind Joey Logano.
The Series continues its West Coast Swing with a 312-Lap event at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 10.
Denny Hamlin Earns 11th-Place Finish at Atlanta, Stays atop Point Standings
Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx team finished 11th Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, allowing Hamlin to maintain his spot atop the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship standings.
Starting fourth in the FedEx Ground Toyota for the 500-mile event, Hamlin dealt with a tight-handling car for much of the first two race stages. Crew chief Chris Gabehart and the #11 crew made chassis and air pressure adjustments over multiple pit stops to help the car turn the corners better, allowing Hamlin to climb as high as third.
Hamlin’s progress was hurt twice by caution flags that came out immediately after #11 team green-flag pit stops, including once in Stage 3 as he ran in the top 10. Forced to restart 20th, Hamlin then pushed his way back into the top 15. A late-race loose condition prevented him from cracking the top 10, and he crossed the finish line in 11th.
Combining Sunday’s result with last weekend’s win in the Daytona 500, Hamlin now leads second-place Kevin Harvick in the championship standings by eight points.
“Passing was pretty tough here already, and the handling of our FedEx Ground Toyota kept us from being as aggressive as we wanted to be,” Hamlin said. “But we’re still leading the points, and we’ll be ready to get back at it next week in Las Vegas and pad our lead a little more.”
The series now heads west for a three-race swing, beginning Sunday, March 3, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin, FedEx Racing Capture Second Daytona 500 Victory
Denny Hamlin was victorious in NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500, outlasting teammate Kyle Busch and a handful of late-race wrecks to capture his second win in the “Great American Race” in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota.
Hamlin was the leader for the final overtime restart, controlling the draft on Daytona’s high banks and holding off charges from Busch and others at the checkered flag.
“This is a great win for our FedEx team, and one that we dedicate to (former Joe Gibbs Racing president) J.D. Gibbs,” said Hamlin, who also won the Daytona 500 in 2016. “We had a challenging year last season and I was determined to get this one off on the right foot, and to win the Daytona 500 again is a dream come true.”
Hamlin started 10th and maintained his position near the front of the pack throughout the early portion of the race, finishing Stage 1 in sixth. A mid-race issue with getting fuel in the car forced Crew Chief Chris Gabehart to alter the team’s strategy, and Hamlin fell back to 21st in Stage 2.
The final stage saw thrilling, side-by-side action throughout the field, with Hamlin mired mid-pack in the draft and needing track position to make a move. That came in the form of a fuel-only stop with 34 laps to go and restarted sixth. He worked his way to the lead shortly thereafter, and survived several multi-car incidents down the stretch to take the win.
The win came in the first race for Gabehart as the team’s Crew Chief, and the 32nd of Hamlin’s career behind the wheel of the #11.
Hamlin leaves Daytona as the NASCAR points leader, with the Series returning to action on Sunday, Feb. 24 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin Finishes Fourth in Daytona Qualifying Duel
Denny Hamlin brought the FedEx Camry home fourth in his qualifying Duel Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway. With the results of the evening’s two qualifying races setting the field for the Daytona 500, the fourth-place finish means Hamlin will start 10th in Sunday’s “Great American Race.”
Hamlin started the 60-lap Duel #2 from the sixth spot, with the field quickly settling into a single-file line. He made multiple attempts to drop below the main pack that was running the high groove, trying to create some movement in a lower line.
The FedEx Camry headed to pit road on Lap 13 for its only pit stop of the night, taking fuel only. Once the entire field cycled through pit stops, Hamlin had his #11 in second behind leader Clint Bowyer.
With Hamlin settled in second, the 21-car field stayed mostly single-file until the final handful of laps. A final push on the last lap scrambled the top-10 cars, with Joey Logano surging ahead to cross the finish line first. Hamlin brought his Camry to the checkered flag fourth, keeping it in good condition for Sunday’s 500-miler.
“There were some things I could’ve done that would have been risky,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t want to risk going back to 10th or 11th to get one more spot. The offensive move for me was to stay in line and see what cooked up behind me. I really needed to keep our FedEx Camry clean.”
The team has two more days of practice to prepare for Sunday’s season opener. The 61st running of the Daytona 500 will roll off at 1:30 p.m. CT on FOX.