2019 Post-Race Reports
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Hamlin’s Championship Push Thwarted by Overheated Engine
Aggressive moves got Denny Hamlin and the FedEx team into a position to compete for the 2019 championship, and an aggressive move also led to that effort falling short Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The No. 11 team finished 10th in the season finale after an overheated engine dropped them from contention.
Hamlin started from the pole and ran up front with his fellow Championship 4 competitors, each taking turns leading laps in the 400-mile race. The FedEx Express Toyota particularly came to life after the sun went down two-thirds of the way through the event.
As temperatures cooled, crew chief Chris Gabehart made the call to put a large piece of tape on the grille during a Stage 3 pit stop to try to produce more speed. But 10 laps into the run, Hamlin’s gauges told him the car was overheating. He was forced to make an unscheduled green-flag stop to pull the tape to cool the engine back down. He returned to the race in 19th and a lap down to the leaders.
Hamlin was able to race his way back onto the lead lap but could not climb higher than 10th before the checkered flag flew. Kyle Busch won the 267-lap race to score his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career championship. The other Championship 4 drivers – Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick – finished the race second and fourth, respectively.
“Obviously, that’s a really disappointing finish to our season,” Hamlin said. “But Chris is an aggressive crew chief, and he’s won us races by being aggressive. It just didn’t work out this time.
“But, I’m so proud of what this FedEx team accomplished this year. We will celebrate that. And I’m looking forward to having the momentum that we took through this year with a first‑year crew chief, and we’re going to win a lot next year.”
Hamlin finished fourth in points for the 2019 season.
Hamlin Clinches Berth in Championship Race with Victory at Phoenix
Denny Hamlin dominated Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway to clinch a berth in next weekend’s championship finale in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hamlin survived a late-race restart with three laps to go to capture his sixth victory of the season, crossing the finish line 0.377-seconds ahead of teammate Kyle Busch. Hamlin and Busch will race Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick for the championship next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“This FedEx team brought me such a fast car today,” said Hamlin, who recorded his 37th-career win on Sunday. “We know what we are capable of, and today we showed that. Chris (Gabehart, crew chief) had these guys ready for today, and I had to do my job. I’m excited for the opportunity next week.”
Hamlin started third and worked his way to the lead at the end of Stage 1 to take the segment win. He was battling Busch and Joey Logano in points for the final Playoff transfer spots, and with both competitors earning stage points, Hamlin knew he had to win to advance.
He finished second in Stage 2 and then lined up in that position alongside Logano for the final segment. Hamlin passed Logano on Lap 177 and opened up more than a 10-second lead on the field during a long green flag run. A late-race caution set up the final dash to the finish line.
“I know that this team will be ready next Sunday at Homestead,” continued Hamlin. “We have had a lot of success there in the past, and our FedEx team is up for another challenge.”
The win tied Hamlin with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac for 22nd on the all-time wins list at stock car racing’s highest level.
Hamlin now has six wins and 19 top-five finishes in 35 races this season
Spin Drops Hamlin to 28th at Texas
Denny Hamlin finished 28th in Sunday's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, after a Turn 4 spin took the FedEx team out of contention in the race won by Kevin Harvick.
Hamlin started the day from the third position and raced in the top-10 for most of Stage 1. While running eighth as the laps wore down in the stage, Hamlin lost the handle on the #11 FedEx Toyota exiting Turn 4 and spun through the grass, causing significant damage to the right front. The FedEx team made numerous pit stops to try and fix the damage, but the aerodynamics were ruined and the handling suffered as a result.
A lack of cautions throughout the remainder of the race worked against the FedEx team and Hamlin dropped six laps down to the leaders by the time the race came to a conclusion after 334 laps.
“Just got up in the slippery stuff before it was really broke in,” said Hamlin, the Spring Texas race winner. “Just lost control, that's all there is to it. Proud of the whole FedEx team for putting their best effort forward so we could be there at the end. Did the best we could and we'll go to Phoenix and try to win.”
The 28th place finish dropped Hamlin to fifth in Playoff points with one race to go in the Round of 8, 20 points below the Championship 4 cut line headed to Phoenix International Raceway next Sunday.
Hamlin Grinds Out Fourth-Place Finish at Martinsville
Denny Hamlin earned a top-five finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, giving himself a second-place perch in the Playoff points after the first race of the Round of 8. The 500-lap race at the close-quartered short track featured its typical beating and banging – as well as some lengthy green-flag runs with no passing at all.
Hamlin started from the pole in his #11 FedEx Freight Toyota and led the first 30 laps. But a couple slow pit stops in the early stages dropped him farther back in the top 10. Reclaiming those spots proved difficult for the rest of the race, with the driver citing a lack of grip to make moves off the corners.
The 263-mile race featured 11 caution flags, including three within the final 50 laps that repeatedly bunched up the leaders and allowed Hamlin to regain several spots and move into the top five. He crossed the finish line in fourth place as teammate Martin Truex Jr. took the victory after leading 464 of the 500 laps.
Hamlin’s finish puts him second in Playoff points with two more races remaining before the championship field is pared to four.
“Track position was everything today, and it was difficult to make up spots,” Hamlin said. “Chris (Gabehart) and the team worked hard to give us a fast car, but we just weren’t able to pass our way back up to the front under the conditions. But, we’re in a good spot in the points, and we move on to a racetrack where we won earlier this year.”
The series heads next to Texas Motor Speedway for a 501-mile event on Sunday, Nov. 3. Hamlin earned his second victory of the 2019 season at the 1.5-mile oval in March.
Hamlin Scores Double-Overtime Win at Kansas, Seeded Third for Round of 8
This would not be the one that got away. Denny Hamlin earned his fifth win of the season Sunday at Kansas Speedway, overcoming two overtime restarts and a hard-charging effort from Chase Elliott.
After starting 23rd, Hamlin appeared to be cruising to his first win of the 2019 Playoffs after winning Stage 2 of the race and then dominating Stage 3. But the caution flag flew for Ryan Blaney with just 14 laps to go in the race. Crew chief Chris Gabehart brought Hamlin to pit road under the yellow for two tires, while others in the top 10 took four.
Hamlin held the lead for the restart and the next six laps, when the caution came out again, this time for a multi-car accident that would send the race into overtime. Once again, Hamlin restarted in the lead. And, once again, a multi-car incident brought out a yellow flag, just as it appeared the FedEx Toyota was taking the white flag – and the win. But NASCAR ruled that Hamlin was short of the start-finish when the caution flag was displayed.
The field bunched up one more time for second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, and this time Hamlin paced two solid laps, holding off runner-up Chase Elliott for the win.
“I knew track position was the biggest factor for us,” Hamlin said. “As long as we could keep our car out front, it was the most important thing beyond tires. Chris (Gabehart) made all the right calls on all those late cautions.”
The Victory Lane celebration featured a congratulatory phone call from FedEx CEO Fred Smith.
“Fred Smith and his whole team have been so great to support me and this race team for 14 years of my career and I could not be happier to get another win for this company and all the associates that work there,” Hamlin said.
While Hamlin had already earned enough points mid-race to clinch a spot in the Round of 8 in NASCAR’s Playoffs, the win made a statement as he heads into the next round seeded third. The first race in the Round of 8 is Sunday, October 27, at Martinsville Speedway.
Hamlin Battles Back for Third Place Finish at Talladega
Denny Hamlin, with an assist from his FedEx team, made a textbook recovery from a lap down to finish third in Monday's rain-postponed Talladega Superspeedway race, won by Ryan Blaney.
After starting last on Sunday due to a blown engine during his qualifying attempt, Hamlin, driving the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, worked his way up to fourth in the running order before getting caught in the middle lane, slipping back to 14th as the skies opened up after 55 laps of racing. Persistent rain forced the official's to postpone the remainder of the race until Monday.
When the race resumed on Monday, Hamlin was running in the lead pack of cars when he radioed the crew that the right side hood flap was loose. The flap eventually flew off the car as the team made preparations to fix the problem. Hamlin lost the draft in the process and the #11 went a lap down. Two laps later, a multi-car accident collected Hamlin and the FedEx car sustained sheet metal damage to the left front fender.
The FedEx team made numerous pit stops to fix the damaged fender and replace the hood flap. Trapped a lap down to the leaders, Hamlin made some aggressive moves to put himself in the “Lucky Dog” position in an effort to get his lap back. The strategy worked, as a timely caution waved while Hamlin was in that position, allowing him to get back on the lead lap.
Hamlin didn't feel he had a race winning car, considering the aerodynamic disadvantage from the damaged front fender. He and crew chief Chris Gabehart decided to ride around in the back of the pack in an effort to stay out of any further trouble and aim for a top-10 finish. The strategy would pay dividends as Hamlin was able to dodge three multi-car wrecks that progressively reduced the number of cars left to race.
Hamlin lined up seventh for the final restart with two laps to go. As the drivers jockeyed for position, Hamlin tried to draft his way to the front, but ran out of racing room and crossed the line under the checkers in a photo finish, beating Aric Almirola by inches for third place.
“I was just trying to play chess out there,” said Hamlin. “I knew my odds and percentages with the wrecks. I knew once my competitors started to fall out, I knew that I had to be smart. I just knew the end of these races usually end up like a crashfest and I was just going to take all the crash positions I could get once I got back on the lead lap. Once I saw that the percentage was better for me to go race up front for the win versus just taking the end of the lead lap even if we were to crash, I knew it was in my best interest to try to go there at the end and we almost won it anyway.”
Hamlin leaves Talladega leading the NASCAR Playoff standings and only needs to start next Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway to advance to the Round of 8.
Hamlin Brings Home Fifth in 500th Start
Denny Hamlin recorded his 15th top-five finish of the season on Sunday with a fifth-place finish at Dover International Speedway in his 500th career start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
After starting from the pole position, Hamlin kept the #11 FedEx machine up front throughout most of Stage 1, only relinquishing the lead in order to visit pit road for his first green-flag pit stop. Following the round of stops, Hamlin returned to the top spot, eventually taking the Stage 1 win, securing a playoff bonus point in the process.
Leading the field to the green for Stage 2, Hamlin showed the way again, until pitting with 54 laps remaining in the segment. Hamlin assumed the top spot following the scheduled stops, however, the FedEx car was beginning to develop a tight condition as the segment progressed. As the laps wound down, Hamlin got trapped behind a lapped car and Martin Truex Jr. passed the #11 with 10 laps remaining in the Stage.
Hamlin started the final segment next to Kyle Larson and tried to keep up with Larson, but the evolving tight condition returned to the FedEx car. A lack of cautions hampered crew chief Chris Gabehart’s ability to dial in enough adjustment to give Hamlin the handling he needed, and the FedEx car eventually faded to fifth by the time the checkered flag waved. Hamlin led the most laps, with 218, but Larson went on to score his first victory of the season.
“We had the best FedEx Toyota I’ve ever had at Dover.” said Hamlin. “I was as comfortable as I’ve ever been here, and we showed that for the first half of the race. We just got put in a bad situation with some lapped traffic at the end of the second Stage and I lost the lead. There were no cautions to pick up the rubber and we just got tight. Once we lost the lead – lost the clean air – it was so difficult to pass. I needed to be up front with as tight as my car was. Top-five, at this track, I’ll take it every week.”
Hamlin now sits second in the playoff standings, 15 points behind Martin Truex Jr. The next race is Sunday, Oct. 13 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Hamlin Finishes 19th in Wild Roval Race, Advances to Round of 12
Denny Hamlin will advance to the Round of 12 in NASCAR’s Playoffs after finishing 19th on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval course Sunday. The race on the road course-oval hybrid was a wild one, with 10 caution flags, including two for wrecks that involved Hamlin.
The #11 team had to start their back-up FedEx Freight Toyota after a Friday practice crash, requiring Hamlin to drop to the rear for the initial green flag. While the car showed speed, multiple incidents on track kept knocking Hamlin back in the field, including a multi-car wreck during Stage 1 and another in Stage 3.
The race was red-flagged with only seven laps remaining to clean up fluid on the track. When it finally returned to green, Hamlin was able to gain multiple positions to cross the line in 19th. Chase Elliott won the race, with Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Hamlin teammate Erik Jones getting eliminated as the 16-driver Playoff field was pared to 12.
“We just had a bunch of things working against us today,” Hamlin said. “We started the back-up car, and we got caught up in some wrecks that caused some damage. We just didn’t have what we needed to get up to the front. I’m proud of the effort by our FedEx team, but I’m ready to stick to the ovals for the rest of the Playoffs.”
Hamlin is now seeded third in points for the start of the Round of 12, which begins Oct. 6 at Dover International Speedway.
Hamlin Takes Third at Richmond as Joe Gibbs Racing Goes 1-2-3
Denny Hamlin earned a podium finish before his hometown crowd at Richmond Raceway Saturday night, as the Chesterfield, Va., native took third in a race that saw Joe Gibbs Racing sweep the top three finishing positions.
After taking the green flag in sixth in his FedEx Office Toyota, Hamlin moved into the top five early and never left. The car was strong for all 400 laps, despite some handling and grip issues that the team adjusted on all evening.
But Hamlin’s No. 11 didn’t quite measure up to his teammates, with Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch dominating most of the race. Truex Jr. won for his second consecutive victory and Busch crossed the line second in front of Hamlin. The finish bumped the FedEx team driver to fifth in the Playoff standings.
“We had a third-place car tonight, and that’s where we ended up,” Hamlin said. “We just didn’t have the long-run speed that my teammates had. But it was a good day overall. We ran in the top five all night, executed well and maximized our day. Our confidence is high going into Charlotte next week.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will come home to North Carolina for the third race of the Playoffs and the final event in the Round of 16. Charlotte Motor Speedway will host the series on its “Roval” (road course and oval hybrid) course on Sunday, Sept. 29.
Hamlin Fights Tough-Handling Car to Finish 15th at Las Vegas
A top-10 finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway slipped from Denny Hamlin’s grasp in the last stage of the race Sunday night, as a change in the FedEx Toyota’s handling led to the No. 11 team finishing 15th.
Hamlin started 13th but got the FedEx Ground Camry running in the top 10 by Lap 25. Despite his car not handling as well as he wanted, he was able to keep it in the top 10 for the first two stages. He even took the lead for a Lap 185 restart during Stage 3 after rolling the dice on a two-tire pit stop.
The car’s handling took a turn for the worse from there, sending Hamlin on a backward slide that saw him as low as 25th on the leaderboard. He climbed back in the final 40 laps to cross the finish line in 15th.
“We had a pretty decent FedEx Camry for the early part of the race, and then something happened with the handling where we went dead backwards,” Hamlin said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a car – without damage – change handling as much as that did. But we’ll take it back to the shop and figure it out, and we won’t let it affect us. We’ll go to Richmond and get back to work.”
The result dipped Hamlin to seventh in points. The second race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs takes Hamlin to his hometown track of Richmond Raceway for a Saturday night race on Sept. 21.
Hamlin Notches Sixth-Place Finish in Back-up Car at Indianapolis
Denny Hamlin drove a back-up car from the rear of the field to a sixth-place finish in NASCAR’s regular-season finale Sunday at Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway.
A Saturday practice crash forced the team to qualify a back-up car, which lined up 33rd for Sunday’s Brickyard 400. Hamlin then had to drop to the rear during the pace laps, per NASCAR rules.
Despite a tight-handling condition in his FedEx Express Toyota, and some damage from multiple on-track and pit-road contact incidents, Hamlin was able to make up a lot of ground from the rear of the field. He climbed into the top 10 by the end of Stage 1 and was 15th at the end of Stage 2. The car was the tightest it had been all day in Stage 3, preventing him from making a charge all the way to the front, but he maintained a spot in the top 10 until the checkered flag to cross the line in sixth.
“Passing isn’t very easy at this track,” Hamlin said. “We did make a lot of progress from the back, but not enough to get all the way to the front. I’m proud of this FedEx team for all we’ve accomplished so far this season, and we’re excited to get the Playoffs started and keep working our way toward a championship.”
Hamlin finished the regular season fourth in championship points and second in the Playoff ranks. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs kick off Sunday, Sept. 15, at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.
Multi-Car Crash Wrecks Hamlin’s Darlington Run
A top-five run and a shot at victory were derailed for Denny Hamlin Sunday night after he got collected in a multi-car wreck in the rain-delayed Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Hamlin was running in the top five when a multi-car crash unfolded in front of him on Lap 275 of 367. The FedEx Toyota suffered significant damage, but the #11 team was able to patch up their car well enough, using multiple pit stops, to return to the race. However, Hamlin was multiple laps down and unable to make up lost ground.
He crossed the line in 29th as Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones collected his first win of the season.
“Obviously, that was a big disappointment for our FedEx team,” Hamlin said. “We had another good car and felt we could’ve competed for a win. We will get our streak going again next week in Indianapolis.”
The start of Sunday night’s race was delayed almost four hours due to heavy rain, and fans didn’t see the checkered flag wave until almost 2 a.m. local time.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series holds its regular-season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 8.
Hamlin Roars to Victory in the Bristol Night Race
Denny Hamlin stormed from two laps down to win Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, passing Matt DiBenedetto with 11 laps remaining to capture his fourth victory of the season.
Hamlin lined up ninth for the final restart with 113 laps to go, and methodically picked off positions towards the front. He made it into the top-five with less than 75 to go, and then up to second with 40 laps remaining. He worked the high line to catch DiBenedetto and then dove to the bottom to complete the pass.
“This FedEx team is on such a roll right now,” said Hamlin, who now has 35 career Cup Series wins. “We show up fast at the race track each and every weekend, and (Saturday), Chris (Gabehart, crew chief) kept me in the game to come back and win the race. I’m proud of our entire team.”
The race was not without incident for the #11 FedEx Team. An early wreck happened right in front of Hamlin while leading, and he was collected in it to sustain right-side damage. Repairs dropped him outside the top-10 for Stage 1 (11th), where he was seemingly mired in traffic.
Then in Stage 2, Hamlin felt a loose wheel vibration and made an unscheduled stop on Lap 189, putting him two laps down to the field when the caution flew shortly thereafter. The wave around got one lap back, and then Hamlin got the free pass with six laps to go in Stage 2 after a host of cautions late in that segment.
Hamlin restarted the final segment just inside the top-20 before making his charge to the front.
The finish vaulted Hamlin to third in the NASCAR point standings following Bristol, 77 points behind leader Kyle Busch with three races remaining in the regular season. The Series enjoys an off weekend before returning to action on Sunday, September 1 at Darlington Raceway.
Harvick Holds Off Hamlin in Fuel-Mileage Race at Michigan
Denny Hamlin finished second to Kevin Harvick at Michigan International Speedway Sunday in a race where the closing laps had everyone guessing who had enough to fuel to make it to the finish.
Hamlin and the #11 team had a fast FedEx Office Toyota, shooting from their starting position of 14th to the top five by Lap 23 and to the lead by Lap 40. Hamlin stayed in the top five for most of the 200-lap event, well ahead of numerous wrecks that victimized several mid-pack cars throughout the race. He led twice for a total of six laps.
The final pit stop of the day proved pivotal to the race’s outcome. The leaders all came to pit road after a caution on Lap 150, with some filling their fuel tanks enough to make it to Lap 200 and some coming up a little short. As the final laps of the race ticked down, some of the top five had to peel off for fuel, while Harvick stayed out front and Hamlin worked to chase him down. The #11 wasn’t fast enough and crossed the line for a runner-up finish – Hamlin’s fifth straight top-five finish.
“We were right there, had a really fast car,” Hamlin said. “The FedEx team did a great job adjusting from the last time we were here. The fastest car won the race, speed-wise, but I feel like we had a great FedEx Camry. We just came up one spot short.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next heads to the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” Bristol Motor Speedway, for a Saturday night race on August 17.
Hamlin Earns Fourth Straight Top-Five Finish with Third-Place Run at Watkins Glen
Denny Hamlin kept the FedEx Cares Toyota in the spotlight all weekend long at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, culminating with a third-place finish Sunday at the high-speed road course. The result was his fourth straight top-five finish.
Hamlin rolled off sixth and ran in the top five for much of the race, a 90-lap affair that only had four cautions and minimal opportunities to pass. The top three – Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Hamlin – remained the same for the final 25 laps of the race. Elliott dominated to earn his second win while Joe Gibbs Racing cars took second, third and fourth (Erik Jones).
“We had a good FedEx Cares Toyota, but they were just a little better than us,” Hamlin said. “We had a third-place car, but I’m glad that we were able to optimize and get the most out of it. This keeps the momentum going for us. Obviously we wish we were a little better, but overall it was a good day for our team.”
The No. 11 Toyota’s special paint scheme at Watkins Glen showcased the launch of the FedEx Cares 50 by 50 initiative as well as FedEx’s long-time partnership with Safe Kids Worldwide, focusing on back-to-school pedestrian safety.
The series heads back to the Irish Hills of Michigan on Sunday, Aug. 11, for a 400-mile event at Michigan International Speedway.
Hamlin Scores Third Win of the Season in Overtime Thriller at Pocono
Denny Hamlin notched his third win of the 2019 season Sunday in a nail-biting, overtime finish at Pocono Raceway. The #11 FedEx Ground Toyota was low on fuel in the closing laps but had enough juice to get Hamlin across the finish line and into Victory Lane – with two teammates behind him for a 1-2-3 Joe Gibbs Racing finish.
The FedEx Ground Camry was fast all weekend, and crew chief Chris Gabehart called a race strategy that allowed the team to pick up points at each stage end and be out front when the final laps ticked down.
After running in the top five for most of the race, Hamlin took over the lead at the start of the third and final stage. He led for 12 laps before coming to pit road under a caution to take right-sides tires and fuel. He later passed two teammates – Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones – to regain the lead with 16 scheduled laps remaining.
Despite being low on fuel, he held onto the lead for the remaining regulation laps, plus three overtime laps. Jones and Truex Jr. followed Hamlin across the finish for a 1-2-3 team sweep.
“We did everything right to win the race,” Hamlin said. “We made the right calls, had good restarts when we needed them and overall had a really smooth race. I was doing everything I could to save fuel at the end. We had a really fast FedEx Ground Toyota and we definitely earned that win.”
Hamlin is fourth in the championship standings and fourth in playoff points. The series heads next to Watkins Glen International for another weekend of road course racing, with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 4.
Hamlin Comes Home Second in Thrilling New Hampshire Finish
Denny Hamlin finished second in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, going bumper-to-bumper with eventual winner Kevin Harvick on the final lap to take the checkered flag 0.2 seconds back in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota.
The race’s final caution came with 35 laps to go with Hamlin leading. Crew chief Chris Gabehart elected to bring the #11 down pit road for right-side tires, and Hamlin lined up fourth for the final restart after three cars stayed out. Hamlin immediately jumped to second and hounded Harvick for the final 25 laps, but was unable to pass him at the end.
“We had a very fast FedEx Camry, but with the caution coming out late, we were in a tough spot knowing that guys were going to do the opposite of us,” said Hamlin. “We worked our way up from the back and led a lot of laps. I’m proud of the team’s effort, but wish we could’ve gotten that last spot.”
Hamlin started at the tail end of the field in a backup car following a crash in Friday’s opening practice. He methodically worked his way through traffic to start the race, climbing all the way to ninth by the end of Stage 1. Varying pit strategies in Stage 2 saw Hamlin take four tires with 10 laps to go in the segment, and a couple good restarts moved him to sixth at the end of that stage.
With the leaders needing to pit, Hamlin assumed the lead to start the final stage. He went on to lead the next 113 laps – his most in a race since Phoenix 2017.
The finish moved Hamlin up one spot to fourth in the NASCAR standings, 114 points behind leader Joey Logano after 20 of 26 regular season races. The Series returns to action on Sunday, July 28 at Pocono Raceway.
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 Endures Challenging Night in Kansas for 16th-Place Finish
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.
Hamlin Finishes 17th in Clash at Daytona
Denny Hamlin finished 17th in Sunday’s rain-shortened Clash at Daytona, unable to avoid a multi-car wreck that unfolded at the front of the field with 20 laps remaining in the 75-lap, non-points event, won by Jimmie Johnson.
Hamlin was scheduled to start the race17th, but had to drop the rear of the field after a practice crash on Saturday forced the FedEx team to go to a backup car for the race.
Starting from the back of the field, Hamlin strategically picked off cars from the start, and by the time the first race segment was complete, had made his way up to fourth, where he would start the final 50-lap run to the checkered flag.
On the ensuing restart, Hamlin maneuvered his #11 machine up to second, prior to the race being halted for light rain.
When the race resumed, Hamlin claimed his spot on the front row on the inside line, for what would become the final restart with 28 laps to go. But with little aerodynamic help coming from the low line of cars, the preferred outside lane took off, dropping Hamlin back to eighth before he was able to squeeze into the high line. However, the move proved futile as just two laps later the melee up front claimed all but five cars of the 20-car field.
During the accident cleanup process, heavy rain began to fall, forcing NASCAR to call the race due to the inclement weather, resulting in the 17th place finish for the FedEx team.
“It was really tough to pass out there today, especially if you were in the bottom lane,” said Hamlin. “Everyone knew the rain was coming and we were all trying to get to the front, I guess a couple cars got together up front and the track was completely blocked with nowhere to go.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins their official season next Sunday, February 17, with the 61st running of the Daytona 500.
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