Bristol: Denny Hamlin preview

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Tire Tested in Atlanta -- Finish 21st: In a race that looked destined to turn the tide of bad luck that had plagued them since the start of the season, Denny Hamlin and the ...

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Tire Tested in Atlanta -- Finish 21st: In a race that looked destined to turn the tide of bad luck that had plagued them since the start of the season, Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team charged to the front and led on five occasions for 32 laps during the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway two weeks ago. In the end, however, it was more of the same as two cut tires over the final 50 laps undid an extremely positive day and forced the team to settle for a disappointing 21st place finish on the afternoon. Hamlin is 22nd in the points heading to Bristol.

Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway: This weekend will mark Hamlin's ninth career Cup start at Bristol Motor Speedway and 156th Cup start of Hamlin's career. Last fall, despite starting from the back of the field and then suffering an early cut tire that forced them off the lead lap only 60 laps in, the team never stopped working and it paid off by the end. The stats may not show the exact number of cars Hamlin passed in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota over 500 laps at the .533-mile high-banked oval at Bristol, but it's no secret the Chesterfield (Va.) native would have liked the chance to pass a few more before taking the checkered flag in fifth place. In March of 2009, Hamlin and team turned in a great performance, charging forward from a starting position of 24th to battle for the lead and ultimately claim second place on the day. Hamlin took the lead on lap 317 and held the point for seven laps before surrendering the lead under caution. Despite restarting second for the green-white-checkered finish, he couldn't reach the bumper of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and eventual winner, Kyle Busch. In August of 2008, Hamlin brought the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota home in third place after working his way into second as Carl Edwards and Busch battled for the lead. In March of that year, Hamlin led 98 laps and held the lead for the green-white-checkered restart before a fuel-pickup problem stalled the car as he took the green flag on lap 504. With only intermittent power, it was all he could do to bring the car home in sixth. In the fall 2007 race Hamlin was forced to the back for the start after a post-practice engine change, but that didn't stop him from making his way up to sixth place in only 103 laps. It was at that time, however, that the first signs of engine trouble started and the #11 FedEx machine would only make it 100 additional laps before the engine let go and Hamlin was forced from the race. Much like the race at Bristol in the spring of 2008, the spring of 2007 event ended with fuel pick-up agony. Hamlin led 177 laps before a late fuel-pickup problem stalled him on a restart with less than 20 laps to go and relegated him to a 14th-place finish.

Bristol Chassis -- JGR 259 and 246: The FedEx team will unload Chassis JGR 259 this weekend in Bristol. This is a brand new car from the Joe Gibbs Racing stable. Chassis 246 sat on the pole at Auto Club in the fall of 2009 and will serve as the backup this weekend.

FedEx Express Market IAD Along for the Ride in Bristol: The #11 FedEx Express Toyota will carry the letters IAD on the B-posts during Sunday's race in recognition of the team representing Washington, DC, southern Maryland and northern Virginia. IAD is being honored for performing at a high level during recent record snowfall -- delivering excellent service while enduring difficult weather, government shut downs and late flights.

HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- Bristol

This is generally where the #11 team hits stride -- are you counting on that this year?: "You can't ever count on it but this is usually a good stretch of races for us. We start visiting tracks where we feel we should not only compete but be a threat to win each and every week. Between Bristol, Martinsville, Phoenix and Richmond -- we know we can be a team to beat. Over the past two years we feel the same way about Texas and Talladega as well. As this team has matured and improved we can now look at every track as a good track, not just some of the shorter tracks where we have been really good in the past. Looking at how our season has started, and the fact that we generally start slowly, I think this spring stretch can get us pointed in the right direction but it needs to be just a start -- we need to keep up performance throughout the summer and into the fall."

This is a track where you come close to winning but not won yet -- can that change this week?: "Coming so close before has really only made us want to win one of these Bristol races more than ever. There is no doubt that winning at Bristol would be special and I know I speak for the entire team when I say leaving Bristol with a trophy is something everyone in racing wants to accomplish in their career. We've felt like we've had the car on a couple of occasions but had some bad luck in terms of parts going bad at the worst possible times. Twice we ran almost 500 laps around Bristol to get in position to win only to have things go wrong at the very end. This team regroups and works even harder because we know we can run well at Bristol. We build really competitive cars, and I have learned a lot about racing here and how to get around this place whether I am running at the front and worrying about clearing traffic or coming from way back in the field and trying to get to the front. I always like our chances coming here -- not having a great start to the season doesn't affect that or our overall outlook at all."

-source: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing