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Hamlin Rebounds from Wreck to Finish 12th at Kansas
Denny Hamlin drove a damaged FedEx Toyota to a 12th-place finish at Kansas Speedway, bouncing back after smacking the wall late in the race.
Hamlin had just taken the lead from Kyle Larson with 30 laps to go when the incident happened. Though the #11 was out front, Larson wasn’t giving up easily and continued to hound Hamlin. As Larson made a move to pass six laps later, the FedEx Camry drifted up the track and slapped the wall. The contact caused enough damage to cut a tire, bringing out a caution and sending Hamlin to pit road for repairs.
The FedEx Racing team restarted in 22nd and clawed back 10 positions over the final 17 laps to cross the finish line 12th. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch charged out to the front in a green-white-checkered finish to take the win for his first victory of the season.
“I knew Larson wasn’t going to give up easily and that it would continue to be a battle after I passed him,” Hamlin said. “Unfortunately, that battle wound up with our FedEx Toyota in the wall. But the team patched it up, kept us on the lead lap, and gave us a shot at a decent finish. So, I’m proud we were at least able to recover the way we did.”
The finish allowed Hamlin to maintain his 87-point lead in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. Up next, the series will turn back time for “Throwback Weekend” on Sunday, May 9, at Darlington Raceway.
Hamlin’s Top-Five Streak Ends in Talladega
Speeding penalties and crash damage put an end to Denny Hamlin’s streak of six top-five finishes Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. A race that began looking promising for the FedEx Racing team ended up with a 32nd-place finish.
Hamlin lined up on the pole for the 500-mile event but dropped to the rear for the race start due to unapproved adjustments. He found his way back up to the front by Lap 28 in Stage 1, where he stayed for 21 laps. He then led 23 laps in Stage 2 before being dealt a pass-through penalty for speeding onto pit road – and then penalized again for speeding on his pass-through.
The penalties left the FedEx Ground Toyota one lap down and in 36th, but plenty of laps remained to make up the lost ground. But on Lap 118, contact from behind forced Hamlin into the wall, causing damage that required lengthy repairs on pit road. The team was never able to recover and finished the race 32nd. Brad Keselowski earned his first win of the season in a green-white-checkered, overtime finish.
“The speeding penalties were a setback, but we knew we had time to work our way back,” Hamlin said. “But then once we had the damage and had a lot of repairs to make, that put us too far back and we couldn’t overcome that. I’m proud of our FedEx team, though, for not giving up and working hard to get our Camry back on track.”
The #11 FedEx Toyota once again paid tribute to the victims of the FedEx Ground mass shooting in Indianapolis, featuring a black ribbon decal and the URL for the fund for victims and survivors (gofundme.com/FedExSurvivors).
Despite the disappointing finish, Hamlin extended his championship points lead to 87 points. The NASCAR Cup Series heads next to Kansas Speedway for a 400-mile event on May 2.
Hamlin Dominates at Richmond but Bowman Steals Win
Denny Hamlin had the dominant car and led the most laps at Richmond Raceway on Sunday, but Alex Bowman stole the victory. After Hamlin won the first two stages and led 207 of 400 laps, Bowman squeaked by with 10 to go, leaving the #11 team with a runner-up finish.
A solid-handling car and fast pit stops kept Hamlin up front for most of the 300-mile event. An 11.6-second pit stop even put the #11 in the lead for the final restart with 12 laps to go. But the FedEx Toyota did not take off well when the green flag waved, and Bowman made the pass around Hamlin for the eventual win.
The second-place finish for Hamlin was his eighth top-five in the season’s nine races and sixth straight. The result increased Hamlin’s championship lead to 81 points, and the stage wins earned him two playoff points.
The #11 Toyota paid tribute to the FedEx team members whose lives were lost Thursday in a mass shooting at a FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis – a tragedy that Hamlin reflected on after the race.
“First and foremost, we are thinking of all of the families in Indy right now,” he said. “Such an awful tragedy to happen there. Our thoughts and prayers are with those families.”
Hamlin still believes their first-place team is performing as needed.
“We’re running well each week. We’re leading a lot of laps, but you have to lead the last lap to get the win.”
The NASCAR Cup Series cranks up the speed with a visit to Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 25.
Hamlin Dominates Martinsville Race but Surrenders Late-Race Lead to Teammate
Denny Hamlin extended his championship lead to 76 points Sunday with a third-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway after dominating most of the race. The FedEx Office Toyota led 276 of the event’s 500 laps but didn’t have the long-run speed to hold off a late-charging Martin Truex Jr., who passed Hamlin for the win with 15 laps to go.
Hamlin’s dominance started Saturday night, when the 263-mile race initially went green, until rain forced a red flag after 41 laps. Once the race resumed on Sunday afternoon, the FedEx Camry continued to show its power and nimble handling around the paperclip-shaped short track – especially on the short runs. With 15 cautions, there were plenty of opportunities for the team to show its short-run strength on restarts.
But the race stayed green for the latter part of Stage 3, allowing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Truex to close in on Hamlin and make a late pass on Lap 485. Chase Elliott then passed Hamlin as well, putting the #11 in third for the finish.
The podium finish is Hamlin’s seventh top-five result in the season’s eight races and his fifth straight.
The 276 laps out front were the most led by Hamlin in a race since the spring Martinsville event in 2009, when he led 296.
“Our FedEx Camry was a great short-run car,” Hamlin said post-race. “It was great on restarts and was fast for 25 to 30 laps, and then guys started catching up. We were just stuck in a box where we couldn’t be good for the long run. But we’re getting closer. There’s nothing saying we can’t go out and win the next three races.”
The NASCAR Cup Series stays in Virginia for its next event, a 300-miler at Richmond Raceway on Sunday, April 18.
Bristol Dirt Track Overtime Ends in Third-Place Finish for Hamlin
As dusty and dirty as the NASCAR Cup Series race was at Bristol Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin wanted a pass for the win to be clean. So, when he had the chance to put a bump-and-run move on leader Joey Logano during overtime laps Monday night, Hamlin instead chose to try a pass on the outside. The move resulted in the #11 FedEx Toyota losing grip – and a third-place finish for Hamlin.
The spectacle of the series’ first dirt race in more than 50 years was postponed a day, after heavy weekend rains washed out Sunday’s track activity. The wait seemed to be worth it, as a limited-capacity crowd cheered as Hamlin led the field to the green flag for the first of 253 laps. (The FedEx Racing driver inherited the lead after an engine change forced pole-sitter Kyle Larson to start from the rear.)
Hamlin led the first lap before his loose-handling car dropped him back outside the top five. But, even with the unfamiliar racing conditions of the temporary dirt track, the FedEx team stayed competitive throughout the 127-mile event, racing near the front and picking up stage points.
The #11 team was in second and battling leader Logano when the yellow flag flew on Lap 246, forcing a green-white-checkered finish. During the two-lap dash to the finish, Hamlin tried to pass Logano on the outside, but lost traction and fell back to third, allowing Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to cross the finish line ahead of him.
The third-place result was Hamlin’s fourth consecutive top-five finish, padding his championship points lead to 58.
“I was kind of guessing, but I thought I could – on that last restart – run the top end hard, but they didn’t prep it in between cautions like they did before, so it was just marbles up there,” Hamlin said. “I’m proud of this whole FedEx Camry team. Man, I thought I had a shot there. I cut the 22 (Logano) too many breaks there when he was cutting us off, but at the end of the day it looked like he had a little bit better car in the long run. I’m proud of this whole team. We are third-best again.”
The Cup Series takes the Easter holiday weekend off before returning to action at Martinsville Speedway on April 10.
Hamlin Extends Top-Five Streak and Points Lead
Denny Hamlin padded his championship points lead Sunday with his third straight top-five finish, bringing home a fourth-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The #11 FedEx Express team started the race on the pole and led the first 27 laps but didn’t have the speed to be out front beyond that early surge. Hamlin and his pit crew were fast all day, but not fast enough to pass the dominant car of Kyle Larson, who led 269 laps and appeared headed for the win until Ryan Blaney passed him for the lead with nine laps to go.
The fourth-place run was Hamlin’s fifth top-five finish in the season’s six races and enough to extend his lead atop the standings to 43 points.
“We just weren’t fast enough,” Hamlin said. “That's been the story so far this season. We're getting our balance close, but we just need more. We're having these clean races and getting everything else right, but there are just always one or two cars that are a little bit faster. We'll go to work on it.”
The NASCAR Cup Series will go dirt racing for the first time in more than 50 years next weekend, heading to a temporary clay dirt course at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 28.
Hamlin Extends Points Lead with Fourth-Place Finish at Las Vegas
Denny Hamlin’s FedEx Ground Toyota didn’t have the speed to bring home a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, but it had enough to secure a fourth-place finish and pad Hamlin’s championship points lead.
The FedEx Racing team finished fourth in the racy, 400-mile event, which officially saw 27 lead changes among 12 different drivers over the course of its 267 laps. The #11 car was out front four different times for a total of 47 laps.
The team worked on the handling of the car on every pit stop, with Hamlin asking for help through the turns on every run. Crew chief Chris Gabehart’s adjustments made improvements to the car – and the pit crew helped with fast pit stops – but Hamlin didn’t have enough speed to compete with Kyle Larson, who led 103 laps and took the win.
“We got our car better for the short runs, but we just didn’t have enough long-run speed,” Hamlin said. “I thought it was a good day for our FedEx Ground Camry team, gathering data, trying to figure out what we can do to be better when we come back here in the fall. We missed the balance in the last part of the race, but we’ll take the information and figure it out.”
Hamlin extended his lead in the driver standings to 38 points. The NASCAR Cup Series stays out west to race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 14.
Hamlin Fights Setbacks to Finish 11th at Homestead
Denny Hamlin finished 11th at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday after working to overcome penalties that twice sent him to the rear of the field.
Hamlin lined up on the pole in the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Toyota for the start of the 400-mile event, but pre-race adjustments deemed “unapproved” by NASCAR sent him to the rear for the green flag. Despite some difficult handling, Hamlin’s Camry was able to climb back into the top five. A quick pit stop by the FedEx pit crew in the closing laps of Stage 2 put Hamlin in position to finish the segment in second, and he held that second spot for the start of Stage 3.
The final segment of the race brought another challenge. A speeding penalty on a Lap 200 green-flag stop sent Hamlin to the back of the pack once again. The team took the ensuing restart in 28th, and Hamlin used the remaining 60 laps to claw his way to a spot just outside the top 10. He finished 11th, allowing him to maintain the series points lead. William Byron won the race.
“Obviously, we hurt ourselves with the penalties,” Hamlin said. “But, we also didn’t have the car we needed to overcome them. We’ll learn from it and move on and give it all we’ve got next week in Las Vegas.”
The NASCAR Cup Series heads west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a 400-mile event on Sunday, March 7.
Hamlin Grabs Points Lead after Third-Place Finish on Daytona Road Course
Denny Hamlin said he had a third-place car pretty much all day Sunday on the Daytona International Speedway road course, and that’s exactly where he finished. The top-three performance was enough to boost him into first place in the 2021 point standings after the completion of the first two races.
Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team started the 253-mile event from the fourth spot and hung around in the top five for much of the afternoon, finishing Stage 1 in third and moving out front to take the Stage 2 win. The 70-lap race was interrupted by eight caution flags – including one for a brief rain shower – which made pit strategy a significant factor.
The team opted to make a final pit stop for fresh tires under caution on Lap 57, putting Hamlin in 18th for the ensuing restart. He used the remaining 12 green-flag laps to pick off spots on the leaderboard, making his way up to third before the checkered flag flew. Ahead of him, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell passed Joey Logano with two laps to go to earn his first Cup career win.
“We were third-best, to be honest with you, all day,” Hamlin said. “That’s kind of what our FedEx Camry had. Christopher Bell was fast there the second half of the race, and I thought we were solid. I was kind of confused on what to do with the strategy there. But it was a great team win for Joe Gibbs Racing. Congrats to Christopher on his first win.”
The Cup Series heads south to Homestead-Miami Speedway for a 400-mile event on Sunday, Feb. 28. Hamlin will start the race as the points leader, 12 points ahead of Logano.
Hamlin Dominates Daytona 500 but Finishes Fifth
Denny Hamlin dominated most of the rain-delayed Daytona 500 Sunday but came up short of a history-making third consecutive win in “The Great American Race.” The #11 team finished fifth after a late-race green-flag pit stop shuffled Hamlin too far out of the lead to recover.
Hamlin and his FedEx “Where Now Meets Next” Toyota won Stages 1 and 2, and led 98 of the event’s 200 laps. When he wasn’t out front, he was actively weaving his way back up there, and it appeared he could be on his way to earning his fourth career – and third straight – Harley J. Earl trophy. With one last green-flag pit stop needed, Hamlin and the other Toyota drivers ducked down pit road together on Lap 173. But Hamlin and his teammates were too detached exiting pit road to blend back into traffic in the lead.
Hamlin found himself in 13th with about 20 laps remaining, with the field staying single file until the white flag. The lead-lap group of cars then spread out for a dash to the finish, and contact between a pair of Team Penske cars triggered a last-lap wreck. Michael McDowell squeaked through for the win, while Hamlin crossed the line in fifth.
“Our fate was sealed after that last pit stop,” Hamlin said. “We came out in front of everybody and didn’t have any help to get up to speed. They all blew by us because they were single file. The fact we came back to fifth on the last couple of laps is pretty good. We had a dominant car. I was happy with everything but the finish.”
Lightning and rain moved into the area shortly after the race got under way. The event was red-flagged with only 15 laps completed and did not return to green for five hours and 40 minutes. The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Daytona International Speedway road course on Feb. 21 for its second points race of the season.
Duel in Daytona: Hamlin Runs out of Gas during Last-Lap Surge
Denny Hamlin was right where he wanted to be – in fourth and on the move on the final lap of his qualifying duel at Daytona International Speedway Thursday night. But his #11 Camry ran out of fuel on the backstretch, dropping him down to a 13th-place finish.
Duel #1, in which Hamlin started seventh, was a typical superspeedway event, with cars strategically jockeying for position throughout its 60 laps. Hamlin initially took his FedEx “Where Now Meets Next” Toyota toward the back of the 22-car pack to avoid early chaos but worked his way back up to the front about half-way through the race. After leading Lap 34, he ducked to pit road for a quick fuel-only stop.
The stop was so quick that Hamlin returned to the track alone, with no drafting help, and consequently had to fall back in line behind the main pack. Crew chief Chris Gabehart also warned Hamlin that the team didn’t get the gas tank as full as needed. Despite the challenges, Hamlin managed to work his way back up to fourth with five laps to go. But the car ran out of fuel on the final lap, and Hamlin crossed the finish line 13th. Aric Almirola, who led 52 of the 60 laps, took the win.
“I did everything I wanted to,” Hamlin said. “I knew I was going to beat everyone off pit road, but I had too big of a lead and then didn’t have any drafting help getting up to speed, and everyone went by us. Then I worked it right when I was able to jump up there and put myself in fourth. I got a run on (Christopher Bell) and kind of got pinched there, and then ran out of fuel on the backstretch. I really liked where I was at going into Turn 1 on the last lap, but we cut it too close on fuel.”
Once a rain-delayed Duel #2 is complete, the field will be set for Sunday’s main event, the 63rd running of the Daytona 500.
Hamlin Leads the Most Laps but Finishes Sixth in Clash at Daytona
FedEx Racing driver Denny Hamlin kicked off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with a sixth-place finish in the “Clash at Daytona” exhibition race Tuesday night. Hamlin looked sharp on the Daytona International Speedway road-course event, leading 21 of the 35 laps, but couldn’t push his way back to the front after a late-race pit stop.
Hamlin started the Clash in third by virtue of random draw but didn’t stay there long once the green flag flew. The #11 Toyota passed the top two before the first lap was complete and stayed there for the first nine circuits. Despite a loose-handling car for part of the 126-mile race, Hamlin stayed in or near the front for most of the event.
When the caution flag flew with eight laps to go – the result of leader Martin Truex Jr. crashing into the wall – crew chief Chris Gabehart called Hamlin to pit road for some needed tires and fuel. After restarting 10th, Hamlin was able to climb four more spots in the remaining laps to finish sixth. Kyle Busch got the victory after Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott wrecked in the final turn battling for the lead.
“I just got jammed up back there on that final restart,” Hamlin said. “There wasn’t anywhere for me to go. But our FedEx Camry was pretty good tonight. Chris and the team got it dialed in pretty good after some early adjustments. We led a lot of laps, and we learned some things that will help us when we come back here racing for points in a couple weeks.”
The FedEx Racing team’s Daytona 500 car will be on track next, with pole time trials scheduled for Wednesday and the qualifying duels to fill out the field on Thursday. NASCAR will run “The Great American Race” on Sunday, Feb. 14.
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