Homestead: Denny Hamlin preview

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Third at Phoenix: In what has become a trend for Denny Hamlin at Phoenix International Raceway, the ...

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Third at Phoenix: In what has become a trend for Denny Hamlin at Phoenix International Raceway, the #11 FedEx Racing team ran strong but couldn't finish better than third as they recorded an impressive finish Sunday afternoon at the unique 1.0-mile track. For Hamlin and team, it was a fourth third place finish in nine Phoenix starts -- a great run of results by any measure. After a final pit stop on lap 242, Hamlin found himself less that a second behind eventual winner Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin methodically carved into the lead, closing to within .29 seconds with less than 30 laps to run but that was as close as he would get. When Jeff Burton reached his bumper and passed him on lap 284, there was no recourse for Hamlin but to run out the race in third. The result sees Hamlin hold on to eighth place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings heading to the season finale at Miami-Homestead.

Hamlin at Homestead: This weekend will mark Hamlin's fifth start at Homestead-Miami and his 151st career start at the Cup level. A year ago, after a season and Chase chalk full of up and downs, it came as no surprise that the final laps were nail biting for Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team. With a car that was as strong as any on the track at Homestead, Hamlin and team were put in the unenviable position of having to sacrifice track position for fuel with 12 laps to go. And, though several cars followed Hamlin off the track, or ran out of fuel on it, the cars that went the distance relegated Hamlin to a frustrating 13th-place finish. This team has made a habit of not qualifying particularly well at this 1.5-mile oval but generally run very strong come Sunday. Hamlin made his sixth-ever Cup start at Homestead in the fall of 2005 and it ended up being the ultimate learning experience as he found the wall both in practice and qualifying then fought handling to bring the car home in 33rd. 2006 was a completely different story. Coming to South Florida in the thick of the Chase for the Nextel Cup and looking to put an exclamation point on a record-setting rookie season, Hamlin drove an excellent race, bringing the #11 home in third place and locking up third place in the 2006 championship standings. The 2007 race at Homestead followed the same script as the 2006 edition - starting from deep in the pack; Hamlin wasted little time pushing forward and claimed 15 spots through the first 18 laps. He would lead 19 laps on the day and run in the top five for most of the 267 laps before finishing an impressive third.

FedEx Express Indianapolis "Along for the Ride" at Homestead: The #11 FedEx Express Camry will feature "IND" on the wing caps this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Indianapolis market is being recognized for outstanding commitment to safety and superior customer service. These results are a reflection of the dedication, hard work, and professionalism of the Indianapolis team. Congratulations!

Homestead Chassis -- JGR 248 & 253: The #11 team will unload JGR 248 this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This car is a two-time winner in 2009, chalking up victories at Pocono and Martinsville. It will attempt to go three for three this weekend. JGR 253 is the back up.

HAMLIN CONVERSATION - HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY:

First off, talk about Homestead: "This can be a tricky place but it's a place where we've been pretty good over the past two races. Qualifying is always a struggle but we usually turn it around on Saturday and then get ourselves in the right place on Sunday. The banking here gives you an opportunity to search for that place where your car can work into turns one and three without having to use a lot of brake and then being able to get back on the throttle as soon as you can. It's a fun track when your car is working - not as much fun when you are struggling to find the balance."

Looking back at this season - what do you pinpoint as highlights and lowlights?: "The win at Pocono was obviously a huge race for this race team. There was a lot of emotion built up for me and the entire team and that win came at a needed time for all of us. The win at Richmond comes to mind as well. It was a big night for me and my family and friends. That was the race I wanted above all the others. As far as low point. I think anyone on the team would look to the DNFs during the Chase. Between some engine problems and my mistake at California -- it was really tough to watch a season that had been really good kind of fall apart on us. We win as a team and lose as a team and I know this experience has only made us a better, more determined race team as we look ahead at next season."

How will you remember this season?: "I think I will look back at this season in two ways. One, it showed we can win week and week out. That when we don't make mistakes, we can run with anyone. That's a big step for us and in a way I think we turned into the team we want to be and the team we thought we could be. I know I am a much more complete driver -- much more prepared to handle what comes my way on the race track. In another way, I think I will look at this season as a missed opportunity in a way. Not saying we would be there this week racing Jimmie for a championship but I think we had the team and the mindset to be a real challenger. Some bad luck and some mistakes and we are fighting for a place in the top-ten or top-eight instead of fighting for a championship. That's the way this sport goes."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin