Martinsville Recap: Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team were bitten by bad luck last Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, as an untimely caution just eight laps after the team’s final green flag pit stop caught the #11 Toyota a lap down and relegated Hamlin to a 12th-place finish. Hamlin started fifth and led 89 (of 500) laps at the speedway where he had won the previous three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, and ran among the leaders throughout most of the afternoon. However, the Virginia native was forced to pit road for fuel and tires on Lap 359, a few laps before rest of the lead group, and when the caution flew on Lap 367, Hamlin was trapped a lap down. He took the wave around to get on the tail end of the lead lap and made up two spots during the final run to finish 12th. The result moved Hamlin up two spots in the point standings following Martinsville, now 19th heading into Saturday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway and 74 points behind leader -- and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate -- Kyle Busch.
Texas Time: The Sprint Cup Series makes its first of two trips to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, where the track will host its first Cup Series night race on Saturday night. Hamlin swept both races at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth facility in 2010, leading the final 12 laps in the rain-delayed spring race one year ago en route to victory lane, just three weeks removed from reconstructive knee surgery. In the 2010 Chase race at Texas, Hamlin led 31 laps to take the checkered flag first and take over the points lead with just two races remaining. Hamlin will be making his 12th-career start at Texas on Saturday night, a place where he has eight top-10 finishes in 11 races. Hamlin finished second in the fall 2009 race at Texas and fifth in the spring 2008 event. In the fall of 2005, just one day after being named the full-time driver of the #11 machine, Hamlin finished seventh at the track in his fifth start at the Cup level. In total, Hamlin has an average finishing position of 8.8 at Texas Motor Speedway and has led 131 laps.
HAMLIN CONVERSATION – TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY:
It’s so fast and smooth and we have had some good success there.
How important was your victory at Texas last spring after the knee surgery? “It was a really big win for me and this team because it came really soon after my knee surgery and I think everyone was looking at me and the #11 team and wondering if we could get through it and really compete – or if our season was over. So to go to a place like Texas where we hadn’t won, and with all that was going on away from track, and win was huge. Texas is a big race on the Cup schedule and a hard place to win so it all came together and we built on that win and it really gave us some confidence heading into the summer. Texas is a place where we’ve always been really competitive so I don’t think it was a case where we finally figured out how to run fast there. If anything it might have shown that our intermediate program was as good as any other team and that I am more comfortable at places like Texas.”
After sweeping Texas in 2010, has it become one of your favorite tracks to race on? “Texas has always been one of my favorite tracks. It’s so fast and smooth and we have had some good success there. Winning both races at Texas last year gave me the confidence to run well at all of the mile-and-a-half tracks. This team has worked hard on its intermediate program over the past few years and last year it seemed to come together. Hopefully, we can continue that trend and make it three in a row.”