2020 Post-Race Reports
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Loose Ballast Sinks Hamlin’s Hopes in Coke 600
Despite leading 133 laps around Bristol Motor Speedway in a fast FedEx Toyota, Denny Hamlin finished 17th Sunday after getting loose and hitting the wall in the closing laps.
Hamlin was in the lead with 12 laps to go but had to hold off Joey Logano and Chase Elliott, who were charging from second and third. With lapped traffic requiring the leaders to weave around the racetrack, Hamlin moved up into the high line, where he got loose, letting Logano and Elliott shoot by. Logano then came across the nose of the #11, sending Hamlin sideways into the wall. The FedEx Toyota limped to pit road with damage and a flat tire.
The quick-working pit crew was able to return Hamlin to the track in 21st as Logano and Elliott continued to duke it out – and then wreck each other with two laps to go. Brad Keselowski sailed by to take the checkered flag for his second win of the season while Hamlin crossed the line in 17th.
“We never got our car handling perfectly, but we were doing well enough to run up front for a lot of laps,” Hamlin said. “I’m sorry for our FedEx team that we couldn’t finish it out. The pit crew had another good day, Sam (McAulay) made some good calls and we definitely had a shot at another win. That’s all we can ask for every week.”
Hamlin started 10th for Sunday’s 500-lap event and stayed in the top 10 for most of the afternoon. He led three separate times for a total of 133 laps and scored stage points in the first two segments. The result was enough to boost Hamlin a spot in the championship points, and he now sits seventh heading into next Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Hamlin, FedEx Racing Team Rally for Runner-Up Finish at Charlotte
Denny Hamlin finished second in Thursday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the #11 FedEx #SupportSmall Toyota, in the 312-mile event won by Chase Elliott.
Hamlin was fifth with less than 30 laps to go, but moved towards the front in the closing laps, crossing the finish line just one spot short of his third victory of the season.
“We fought all night to move to the front,” said Hamlin, after the race. “We made big adjustments each time we could because we were so loose and kept running on the splitter. But the pit crew did a great job and we made good changes and ended up near the front at the end.”
Hamlin started 29th and battled in the first two segments trying to gain track position. The FedEx crew kept gaining spots on pit road and Hamlin picked off positions on the track to finish 12th in Stage 2.
Once the final segment started, Hamlin was one of the fastest cars on the track. He lined up second alongside then-leader Kevin Harvick for the final restart, but fell back to fifth early in the run. Later in the run, Hamlin was able to work back to second by the time the checkered flag flew.
The finish kept Hamlin in eighth in the point standings following Charlotte. The Series returns to action on Sunday, May 31 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Loose Ballast Sinks Hamlin’s Hopes in Coke 600
Denny Hamlin’s shot at a Coca-Cola 600 victory was all but eliminated before the green flag even waved Sunday, when the #11 had to return to pit road during the pace laps after losing ballast weights.
The blocks of tungsten, which are required for the car to meet minimum weight, fell out of the FedEx #SupportSmall Toyota as the car rolled off pit road at Charlotte Motor Speedway to begin the pace laps. NASCAR ordered Hamlin back to pit road so the team could replace the weight as the rest of the field took the green flag. Hamlin rejoined the field eight laps later.
The team tried various pit strategies throughout the 600-mile race to regain ground but never returned to the lead lap. Hamlin was able to climb 10 positions, though, to cross the finish line in 30th as Brad Keselowski took the win. Second-place finisher Jimmie Johnson was later disqualified in post-race inspection, bumping Hamlin’s finishing position to 29th.
“Obviously that was a huge disappointment for our team,” Hamlin said. “The race tonight basically wound up being a long test session for us for Wednesday’s race. But we ran some fast laps, gained some good information, and we’ll bounce back and be ready for the next one.”
The series returns to the 1.5-mile oval for a 500-kilometer event on Wednesday evening.
Hamlin Captures NASCAR Victory in Rain-Shortened Race at Darlington
Denny Hamlin won Wednesday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in the #11 FedEx “Delivering Strength” Toyota, after a late-race call to stay out on older tires with less than 30 laps to go was followed by a wreck and rainfall, cancelling the end of the race.
Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart elected to come to pit road to put on new tires – the team’s last set – during a caution on Lap 183, just a handful of laps after pitting under green flag conditions. Hamlin lined up fourth for the ensuing restart, and quickly moved into third.
Another caution came seven laps later, and Hamlin was forced to stay out without fresh tires in the pits. The move proved prophetic because Hamlin inherited the lead when the lead lap cars pitted, held the point after the restart. Then, following a wreck and caution on Lap 202, the skies opened up and NASCAR called the race official.
“We had a fast FedEx Camry tonight, and it just took some time to get the track position to show it,” said Hamlin, who captured his third-career win at Darlington. “We had one long green flag run where I was able to work through the field and get track position, and with so many strategies in the pits at the end, we got a bit lucky.”
Hamlin started 16th based on an inversion of the top-20 finishers from Sunday’s race at the same track, but was bogged down in traffic in the early going. He climbed to eighth at the end of Stage 1, and finished seventh in Stage 2.
The race length – only 300 miles – increased the drivers’ sense of urgency to move to the front, but with a host of cautions and a car built for long-run speed, Hamlin could never show his true strength. That changed in the final segment, as Hamlin picked off cars in a march to the front. He got up to second before a green flag stop on Lap 178.
The win is the second of the season for Hamlin and the 39th of his NASCAR career. He moved up two spots to fourth in the 2020 NASCAR standings following the victory, now 57 points behind leader Kevin Harvick after six of 26 regular season races.
The Series returns to action for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 24.
Hamlin Scores Top-Five Finish in Return to Racing
Denny Hamlin battled the track “Too Tough to Tame” for a top-five finish in NASCAR’s return to live racing on Sunday. Hamlin finished fifth at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in the Cup Series’ first event since going on hiatus in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The #11 “Thank You FedEx Team Members” Toyota lined up 10th by virtue of a random draw for the one-day event. With no practice or qualifying laps before the green flag, Hamlin had to assess the car for the first time during the first part of the race. The FedEx Racing team had brought a fast car – they just worked on slight handling issues through the 400-mile event.
Hamlin remained in the top 10 throughout the afternoon, but never had enough to challenge for the lead. Kevin Harvick dominated much of the race for the win, leading 159 of the 293 laps.
“Obviously, we always want to win, but we’ll take a top-five in the first race back with no practice or qualifying,” Hamlin said. “Our FedEx Camry was pretty fast, but we just have to try to tweak a few things before coming back on Wednesday. I’m proud of our team for everything that went into getting ready for this race under the conditions. We’ll get better and we’ll be back.”
The fifth-place finish bumped Hamlin up to sixth in championship points. The Cup Series makes a quick return to Darlington for its next race on Wednesday night.
Hamlin Powers His Way to Victory in Pro Invitational Finale
Denny Hamlin took a fast FedEx “Delivering Strength” Toyota to Victory Lane at virtual North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway, bookending the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series with wins. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s other win in the iRacing simulator series came in its first race, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, on March 22.
Hamlin used a bump-and-run pass on Ross Chastain to take the lead with only eight laps remaining in the race, the last event on the virtual platform before the NASCAR Cup Series returns to at-track racing next weekend.
Hamlin was the second-fastest qualifier for the 160-lap race on the historic short track, but he lined up ninth after the top 10 was inverted for the start. An early collision with John Hunter Nemechek resulted in damage that required Hamlin to use his “fast repair” reset and knocked him outside of the top 20. The driver of the #11 gradually worked his way back up through the field and led 24 total laps throughout the day.
“I knew we had the fastest car,” said Hamlin. “It was just getting through traffic. I had that early incident and had to use the fast repair right off the bat. Then we had some good short-track battles with Christopher Bell and then Ross Chastain at the end.
“I can’t wait to get back to real racing now. I have to thank FedEx, Coca-Cola, Toyota and everyone from iRacing that put this together. Also, have to say thank you to FOX for everything they did broadcasting these races. It’s been a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see you guys in the real world starting next week.”
Cup Series racing resumes on Sunday, May 17, at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Hamlin Recovers from Wreck to Finish Sixth at Virtual Dover
Denny Hamlin earned a top-10 eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series finish at virtual Dover International Speedway, recovering from a late-race tangle that forced him to pit road for repairs.
Hamlin’s #11 FedEx “Delivering Strength” Toyota was the fastest car in qualifying, but a top-10 inversion for the start of the race placed him in 10th for the green flag. The car was quick, and tire strategy put Hamlin out front to lead nine laps early in the 150-lap event.
As the race progressed, Hamlin’s virtual Camry showed good long-run speed, but frequent cautions kept stalling out his attempts to drive back to the front. Then on Lap 135, the #38 of John Hunter Nemechek pushed Hamlin up into the wall in what appeared to be payback for a bump-and-run pass by Hamlin on Nemechek several laps earlier. Nemechek was subsequently removed from the race.
After using his “quick repair” reset on pit road, Hamlin returned to the track in 16th and then powered his way up to sixth for the checkered flag. William Byron won the race for his third victory in the Pro Invitational Series.
“Our FedEx ‘Delivering Strength’ Toyota was pretty good today,” Hamlin said. “We got off a little bit on our tire strategy, with the cautions not falling at the right time. But we were able to drive back up through the pack, and I thought we still had a top-three car. We had a little battle with John Hunter Nemechek that resulted in him crashing us, but we were able to make repairs and come back for a top-10 finish.”
The Pro Invitational Series will wrap up on Saturday, May 9, at virtual North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway – a track that has not hosted a real NASCAR Cup Series race since 1996. Drivers will then leave their simulators behind to go back to the track on May 17, when Cup Series racing resumes at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Hamlin finished 39th in Sunday’s virtual NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway
Denny Hamlin finished 39th in Sunday’s virtual NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway following damage early and late-race technical *difficulties* eliminated him from contention in the iRacing Pro Invitational Series race won by Alex Bowman.
Hamlin started 36th in the #11 FedEx “Delivering Strength” Toyota paint scheme, and had planned to ride around at the back of the field to avoid early wrecks. However, he made side-by-side contact with teammate Erik Jones early in the race to cause some damage. He fixed the damage under the race’s first caution and restarted at the back of the field. However, shortly after the restart, Hamlin was spun on the back straightaway to get additional damage, losing a lap to the leaders.
“It was a mess of a race,” said Hamlin. “We got damage early, lost our track position, got spun and then had technical issues with my monitors to take us out. My daughter accidentally turned it off during the race.”
Hamlin’s simulator monitor went dark with 20 laps to go during green flag run, and he pulled off the track and was eliminated from the race.
Bowman won the event, followed by Corey Lajoie, Ryan Preece, Garrett Smithley and Landon Cassill.
Hamlin Finishes Sixth at Virtual Home Track
Denny Hamlin earned his third top-10 finish in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series with a sixth-place result at virtual Richmond Raceway.
Hamlin started 13th in the “Thank You FedEx Team Members” Toyota on the simulated three-quarter-mile oval. The mid-pack starting position proved difficult to overcome, as he used a fast Camry and pit strategy to move up as close as the top five for the closing laps. But, despite an overtime green-white-checkered finish, he didn’t have enough laps to chase down eventual winner William Byron, who won his second consecutive Pro Invitational event.
The virtual race at Hamlin’s home track followed a midweek donation by the Chesterfield, Va., native and sponsor FedEx to the Chesterfield Food Bank. The food bank has seen an increase in demand since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and the donation will provide 60,000 meals to more than 4,400 Chesterfield families.
“It’s good to get a decent finish at my hometown track, a community that has been on my mind a lot during these challenging times,” Hamlin said. “I’m proud that FedEx and I were able to help out with the donation to the Chesterfield Food Bank. Obviously, we would have liked to have had a real race at my home track, but we’re looking forward to getting back there as soon as we can.”
The Pro Invitational Series will go superspeedway racing next week, heading to virtual Talladega Superspeedway on April 26.
Hamlin Climbs His Way to Top 5 at Virtual Bristol
Denny Hamlin clawed his way from the back of the pack to a fourth-place finish in Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series event at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, earning a top-five in the “Thank you FedEx team members” Toyota.
The event was the third in the iRacing video simulation series and the first featuring heat races before the main event. Hamlin spun and incurred damage during his 50-lap heat race, relegating him to the back of the starting grid. Rolling off 26th for the 150-lap main event, he raced with the damage for much of the day, gradually making his way toward the front.
Once he reached the top 10, Hamlin used a fast repair – one of two “resets” allowed – to fix his FedEx Camry and give him a chance to race the leaders. He gained six more positions in the remaining laps but never caught up with the dominant car of William Byron, who led most of the day and won the race.
“I definitely need to do a better job at qualifying because it was just so hard to race up to the front from where I started,” Hamlin said. “We just ran out of laps to try to catch William. But I’m proud of a top-five finish for everyone at FedEx. We had the ‘thank-you’ paint scheme for their 475,000 team members who are working so hard right now, so I’m happy to get a good finish for them.”
Hamlin has one win and two top-fives through three races in the Pro Invitational Series, a non-points campaign.
Hamlin Finishes 24th in iRacing Pro Invitational Series Race at Texas Motor Speedway
Denny Hamlin finished 24th in Sunday’s iRacing Pro Invitational Series virtual NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway, after a late-race speeding penalty put him back in the running order followed by an on-track incident in the closing laps. Timmy Hill was the race winner.
Hamlin qualified 17th and decided to fall to the back of the field at the start to avoid wrecks near the front. With only one “reset” in the race, meaning a new car with no damage, Hamlin felt it was imperative to keep his nose clean early on. He moved up in the order following a pit strategy to stay out during a caution mid-race to take the lead for a restart, but the older tires proved disadvantageous, as he slid back near 20th position. From there, he worked back up near the top-10 before a round of green flag pit stops. However, Hamlin sped entering pit road and incurred a 40-second penalty, dropping him two laps down.
A bevy of late-race cautions bunched the field, and Hill – a long time iRacing competitor – took the victory by a narrow margin over Ryan Preece. Garrett Smithley, Landon Cassill and Alex Bowman rounded out the top-five.
“We had a distinct strategy and I screwed it up,” said Hamlin. “We decided to hang back in the early part of the race to conserve tires and avoid the wrecks, and everything seemed to be going according to plan. We got off-strategy a bit in the middle of the race, but felt like we were in a good spot before I messed up on pit road.”
Hamlin was driving a special #11 Thank you FedEx team members paint scheme for the race.
Hamlin Wins Inaugural eNASCAR Pro Invitational Race with Last-Lap Pass
Denny Hamlin took the FedEx Express Toyota to a virtual Victory Lane for the first time Sunday, winning the inaugural eNASCAR Pro Invitational event at a simulated Homestead-Miami Speedway. The driver won the 100-lap race on the iRacing video platform with a last-lap pass around Dale Earnhardt Jr. as sports-hungry fans watched the exhibition event unfold live on FS1.
The racing community organized the simulator-driven event to help entertain fans while in-person racing is on hiatus. A barefoot Hamlin, who logged hours of practice time for the work-from-home event, started the race ninth from the seat of his simulator. He led 14 laps during the middle of the race and used a fresh set of virtual tires to surge back to the front in the closing laps.
Hamlin passed Earnhardt Jr. coming off Turn 4 of the 1.5-mile virtual oval to take the checkered flag.
“This was a great event for our whole racing community to put on for our fans, bringing everybody together to have some much-needed fun,” Hamlin said. “It felt great to get the win for FedEx, who has almost half a million team members around the world who are very busy ‘delivering for good’ right now, getting critical shipments to people and businesses.”
NASCAR expects to announce additional eNASCAR events for the coming weeks, with real-life NASCAR Cup Series racing tentatively scheduled to return on May 9 at Martinsville Speedway.
Hamlin Manages 20th Place Finish at Phoenix
Denny Hamlin finished 20th in Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, following an on-track incident that caused significant damage to the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the event won by Joey Logano.
After starting third, Hamlin settled into fourth during the opening laps and was poised to stay up front with a car that was handling to his liking. Following the first caution and round of pit stops, the FedEx driver lined up third for the restart. As the field headed into Turn 1, Hamlin ended up in the middle of a three wide scramble, but Hamlin held on through the corner and maintained his position down the backstretch. However, as the three-wide battle continued, the aerodynamics became unsettled entering Turn 3 and Hamlin tangled with Brad Keselowski, the contact turned the #11 and Hamlin tagged the wall with the right side of the car.
Hamlin was forced to make numerous pit stops in an effort to repair the bodywork, but the rear spoiler was too far out of position to be effective, severely affecting the handling and Hamlin eventually fell back to 29th, two laps down.
Throughout the race, the team made every effort to try and get back on the lead lap, but the cautions didn't fall their way. But as the laps clicked down, crew chief Chris Gabehart used a flurry of cautions to strategically advance the #11 back on the lead lap, salvaging the 20th place finish.
“All the way around, that was a tough day for our FedEx team,” said Hamlin. “The bad part is that we had a great FedEx Toyota, but we were never able to show it. I really appreciate the effort by my team, they did a great job patching the car back up so we could get a top-20 finish out of it.”
The finish dropped Hamlin to 11th in the NASCAR standings following Phoenix. The Series returns to action on Sunday, March 15 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Hamlin Battles Back to Finish Sixth in Fontana
Denny Hamlin’s race weekend in Southern California ended a lot better than it started: After qualifying 28th and taking the green flag at the rear of the field, the driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota finished sixth at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.
After disappointing practice and qualifying results, the team opted to bring the car to pit road for adjustments during Sunday’s pace laps – before the green flag even waved. The early pit stop meant Hamlin would take the green at the back of the pack. The efforts helped. Hamlin and his better-handling FedEx Camry were in the top 15 by the half-way point of Stage 1.
Hamlin’s 400-mile race wasn’t without its adverse moments. He unintentionally knocked Kyle Larson into the wall during Stage 1 and then scraped the wall himself in Stage 3, both causing damage that affected the car’s aerodynamics and handling. But the veteran driver kept wheeling the car around different lines of the multi-groove track to find speed where he could, even briefly taking the lead in the early part of Stage 3.
Entering the final 15 laps of the race in 10th, Hamlin battled numerous competitors to claim a few more spots and cross the line in sixth. The result bumped him up two spots in the championship ranking to seventh.
“We got our FedEx Camry handling OK after we worked on it throughout the day,” Hamlin said. “We just didn’t have the raw speed we really needed to do more. But considering how our weekend started, a sixth-place finish is a pretty good day for us.”
The NASCAR Cup Series next heads to Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 8, for the final stop of the West Coast Swing.
Hamlin, FedEx Racing Finish 17th at Las Vegas
Denny Hamlin finished 17th in Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, unable to overcome an ill-handling #11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the race won by Joey Logano.
Hamlin lined up fourth on the grid, but had to drop to the back of the field after the team was penalized for a technical inspection violation. At the drop of the green flag, Hamlin began reporting that the car was extremely loose and he felt like he was driving on ice.
As the race progressed, the FedEx crew made significant adjustments to the chassis during each pit stop, but Hamlin continued to struggle with the handling. Mired back in the pack in 24th, the team changed their strategy and stayed out during a caution with 90 laps to go in an effort gain valuable track position. The gamble paid dividends as the laps clicked and Hamlin was up to 14th when a caution waved with six laps remaining. Hamlin pitted with the rest of the leaders, but was penalized for speeding on pit road, sending him back to 24th for the green-white-checker finish.
Following the restart, the field scrambled back to the white flag as a multi-car accident unfolded in front of Hamlin, who dodged the melee, bringing the FedEx car back around to the checkers in 17th place.
“It was just a tough day all the way around for our FedEx team,” said Hamlin. “We just didn't have a good handle on the car throughout the entire race. We finally worked our way up into the top-15 and the pit road speeding penalty killed our chances of any kind decent finish.”
The series returns to action Sunday, March 1 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA.
Hamlin, FedEx Racing Capture Third Daytona 500 Victory
Denny Hamlin won his third Daytona 500 in five years Monday in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, passing Ryan Blaney in the final stretch to win by 0.014 seconds, the second-closest margin of victory in the “Great American Race.”
Hamlin led a race-high 79 laps, and was leading to start the final two-lap overtime dash to the checkered flag. Ryan Newman and Blaney surged past Hamlin on the backstretch of the final lap, but Hamlin immediately got back to Blaney’s bumper to push back towards the front. Blaney made a move to Newman’s inside while Hamlin went to the outside. Blaney and Newman made contact, sparking a multi-car incident, as Hamlin was able to beat Blaney to the finish line by the nose of his car.
Newman was taken to a local hospital after the scary crash.
“First, my thoughts are with Ryan (Newman) and his well-being,” said Hamlin, whose 2016 margin of victory of 0.010 remains the closest in the race’s 62-year history. “I’m proud of this FedEx team for another great accomplishment, but no win is more important than the health and safety of the competitors.”
The race was postponed after just 20 laps on Sunday due to rain, and it resumed Monday afternoon. Hamlin and his fellow Toyota competitors stuck to the game plan of riding in the back out of harm’s way in Stage 1. Hamlin inherited the lead after varying pit cycles at the end of the Stage. He went on to lead the majority of Stage 2 and captured that segment victory for an additional playoff point.
The action picked up in the final stage, with side-by-side racing throughout the field. A handful of late-race incidents took out many of the frontrunners, but Hamlin was able to avoid the wrecks and remain near the front for the final few restarts.
The win is the 38th of Hamlin’s career, and his third Daytona 500 win makes him just the sixth driver in NASCAR history to hoist the Harley J. Earl Trophy at least three times. He joins Hall of Famers Dale Jarrett (3), Jeff Gordon (3), Bobby Allison (3), Cale Yarborough (4) and Richard Petty (7).
The series returns to action on Sunday, February 23 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin Makes Moves but Finishes 11th in Duel at Daytona
Denny Hamlin secured a 21st-place starting spot in Sunday’s Daytona 500 after crossing the line 11th in his qualifying Duel at Daytona International Speedway Thursday evening. Hamlin was a man on the move the entire night, taking chances and trying to make things happen to improve his position throughout the 60-lap race.
The green flag of the 150-mile event was delayed briefly by a short rain shower. But once Hamlin got rolling from his third-place starting position, the driver was ready to see what his FedEx Express Toyota could do. Not content to just ride along in line, Hamlin jumped out of line multiple times to try to shuffle the field and move to the front. He ran as high as third and as low as 18th.
His final move came in the last seven laps, as he enlisted the help of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chase Elliott to drop low to make a push on the leaders. The three-car train surged toward the front, but didn’t have enough to overtake Joey Logano, who crossed the line as the winner.
“I saw some opportunities, and I was just trying to make things happen,” Hamlin said. “We didn’t always get the help we needed each time, and our FedEx Camry was kind of loose late in the race, but I think we’ve got something to work with on Sunday.”
With the results of Duel 1 filling in the inside row of the Daytona 500 starting grid, the 11th-place finish gives Hamlin a 21st-place starting position for Sunday’s main event. William Byron won Duel 2, which fills in the outside row. Hamlin will look to earn his third, and second consecutive, Daytona 500 win on Sunday. The 62nd running of the Great American Race airs at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
Hamlin Finishes Sixth after Wild Busch Clash
Denny Hamlin finished sixth in the #11 FedEx Toyota in Sunday's Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway after pushing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones to victory.
Hamlin started 18th in the 18-car field following a random draw to determine starting positions. But, starting in the back didn't deter the driver of the FedEx Camry, who rocketed up to sixth after just five laps of racing on the high banks.
With most of the field content to draft in a single lane, Hamlin tried numerous times to get a second lane to form in an attempt to get to the front. Hamlin's attempts never accumulated enough cars to make the necessary speed to challenge the leaders before pit stops and varying strategies unfolded during the 75-lap event.
As the race progressed, the various strategies spread the field out around the entire 2.5-mile track. However, as the end of the race closed in, the field bunched back up and the racing heated up with three-wide racing.
While fighting for the lead with eight laps to go, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch tangled at the front of the field. Hamlin dove to the bottom to avoid the incident and took the lead in the process, however, the FedEx car was clipped in the right rear and received minor damage. Hamlin radioed that he thought the car was okay, but wasn't sure if the right rear tire would make it to the end. The FedEx team decided to stay out during the caution to retain the lead for the restart with three laps remaining.
Hamlin led the field through Turns 1 and 2, and down the backstretch, but as he reached Turn 3, the tire gave out and Hamlin spun in front of the field. The #11 sustained a lot of damage, but the team patched the car up and Hamlin returned to the race, two laps down.
Two more cautions would claim most of the field, and just five cars were running the final laps to the checkers. As the five cars jockeyed down the backstretch for the final time, Hamlin, now one lap down, tucked his FedEx Toyota under the rear of JGR teammate Erik Jones and pushed him from fourth to first through the final turn and to the checkered flag.
“That was awesome and so much fun,” said Hamlin, a three-time Busch Clash champion. “I mean I knew Erik needed to strap in because that last lap I was going to push him. I didn't care if I was going to push him into a wreck. I was just going to push him. It was fun. I mean my car was so, so fast. Proud of the effort by my FedEx team. I'm glad we got a JGR team win too. I mean that's all I could really do at the end was push him to victory.”
The NASCAR Cup Series begins their official season next Sunday, February 16, with the 62nd running of the Daytona 500.
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