EXPRESS NOTES: Denny Hamlin and the ...
Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team's race at Auto Club Speedway started brightly, leading the field to the green from the pole and then leading the first ten laps, but the day ended agonizingly early when Hamlin -- leading on a lap 190 restart -- clipped the left rear of his car on Juan Pablo Montoya's car and spun into the end of the infield pit wall. The wreck ended Hamlin's afternoon and put a severe dent in his 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship aspirations. Hamlin who entered the race sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points race, just 99 points behind the leader, scored a 37th-place finish to end the fourth race of the Chase ninth in points. He now sits 219 markers behind new points leader and Sunday's Pepsi 500 winner Jimmie Johnson.
Denny in the Drop Box: In support of Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team, FedEx is installing custom sound devices featuring a special message from the driver of the #11 FedEx Toyota into more than 700 FedEx Express drop boxes in four race markets. The promotion will kick off in Charlotte, NC the week of Oct. 12, 2009 with the installation of over 300 devices into FedEx Express drop boxes -- including one at the Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville. Over the next two months the one-of-a-kind drop boxes will roll into additional markets, including Greensboro, Birmingham, Ala., and Miami leading up to the season finale of the Sprint Cup Series at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hamlin at Lowe's Motor Speedway: This weekend will mark Hamlin's ninth Cup start at Lowe's Motor Speedway, 146th career Cup start and his fourth trip to Lowe's in the midst of the Chase. Earlier this season, after a weekend full of rain-interrupted racing, Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing Team posted a well-deserved 11th-place finish in the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600. The #11 team ran in the top-ten throughout the race, only falling outside at the end when pit stops decided the final order. Hamlin's overall performance in the fall at Lowe's has paled in comparison to his top-ten average in four Coca-Cola 600 races. However, that doesn't mean the #11 team hasn't been competitive. A year ago, Hamlin ran comfortably in the top-ten before a lap 233 incident caused damage to the car and left Hamlin unable to regain the performance he enjoyed up to that point. In 2007, just as Hamlin appeared poised to bring home a top-five finish, transmission issues that had been threatening for much of the race finally crippled the #11 under caution. The ensuing repairs forced Hamlin to ride out the remainder of the race in fourth gear while mired back in the pack. He would ultimately take the checkered flag in 20th place. In 2006, a lap one multi-car wreck caught Hamlin and the ensuing damage sent him immediately to the garage for significant repairs. He returned to the track but wasn't able to improve beyond a 28th-place finish. Hamlin made his debut at Lowe's in 2005. In only his second-ever Cup start, Hamlin pushed the #11 forward from a starting position of 39th to claim his first-ever top-ten finish.
FedEx Office Center #4404 "Along for the Ride" in Charlotte: In recognition of their outstanding commitment to customer service, FedEx Office Center #4404 will be featured on the wing caps of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota this weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Store #4404, located in Brownsville, Texas is leading all FedEx Office locations in customer service standings.
Lowe's Motor Speedway -- JGR 256 and 253: The team will unload JGR 256 this weekend in Charlotte. This car last ran two weeks ago at Kansas where Hamlin posted a fifth place finish, and before that at New Hampshire where Hamlin piloted it to a second-place finish. JGR 253 will serve in backup duty.
HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- Lowe's Motor Speedway:
Obviously last week was a disappointment. How do you and the #11 team respond this week?: "It was a huge disappointment but I look at the situation and know that I made the mistake and I owe it to this team to go out and run as hard as I can this and every weekend. I know I've said it before but this Chase is so tight and there is no room for error. The responsibility is on me and if I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently. It really hurt us in the points and that is tough to take but it won't change our approach. We feel like we've been good enough this season to run for a championship."
You had another good run here this year at the 600, can you replicate that here this weekend?: "I think we can, we are looking forward to getting to Charlotte because we believe in our equipment and our intermediate program -- which is getting better and better. We've seen all Chase long that the best teams continue to rise to the top and they do that by bringing good cars and making them better throughout the practices and all race long. Everyone is building for the end of the race when everything is on the line. We are in the same boat and expect to be competitive this weekend."