Martinsville II: Denny Hamlin preview

Chase Woes Continue for Hamlin, FedEx Racing at Charlotte: For the second-consecutive week, Denny Hamlin and the ...

Chase Woes Continue for Hamlin, FedEx Racing at Charlotte: For the second-consecutive week, Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team led laps and looked absolutely, positively ready to challenge for the win. However, and unfortunately just as it did a week earlier, the #11 FedEx Toyota ended up on the transporter before the race was over. Saturday's crushing blow to the #11 team came at the hands of an engine part failure that forced Hamlin from the race on lap 192. In the garage, the team diagnosed the issue as a broken valve and worked to repair the problem but ultimately decided to park the car, believing the engine may not make the end of the race. Hamlin would finish in 42nd place and score a second-consecutive DNF -- the third of the 2009 season and only the eighth of his career. The result sees him slip to 11th in the Chase standings -- 372 points out of first place.

FedEx Double Duty -- Martinsville and Memphis: In addition to the #11 FedEx Freight Camry being on the track at Martinsville this weekend, Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch will pilot a FedEx car in the Nationwide Series at Memphis Motorsports Park as well. The #18 Nationwide entry will carry a salute to FedEx team members in Memphis -- which serves as the headquarters for FedEx and is home to over 35,000 FedEx team members. FedEx also is honoring team members by unveiling a special pit wall banner at Martinsville which will feature messages from employees and fans.

Hamlin at Martinsville: This weekend will mark Hamlin's ninth career Sprint Cup start at Martinsville Speedway and he returns to southern Virginia eager to improve the second-place finish he scored there earlier this season. Hamlin led a race-high 296 laps in March and, after grabbing the lead from Jimmie Johnson on lap 456, was well-positioned to claim a second Grandfather clock. However, two consecutive cautions tightened the field and Johnson worked his way to Hamlin's bumper as the laps counted down. On lap 485, Johnson made contact with Hamlin, forcing the #11 FedEx Freight Camry up the track and allowing the #48 Chevrolet to sneak by on the inside. Hamlin had little recourse but to finish the race in second place. In March of 2008 Hamlin led 82 laps and held off a furious charge from Jeff Gordon to claim his sole win of the season and the fourth win of his Cup career. In the fall of 2008, Hamlin and the #11 team fought handling issues but managed an impressive fifth-place finish. In 2007, Hamlin sat on the pole for the spring race and led 125 laps before taking third place and then posted a sixth place finish in the 2007 Chase race. Hamlin has only finished out of the top-10 once at Martinsville -- a 41st place finish in the spring event in 2006.

Greensboro FedEx Freight Service Center "Along for the Ride" at Martinsville Speedway: The #11 FedEx Freight Camry will feature "GBO" on the wing caps this weekend at Martinsville. The FedEx Freight service center located in Greensboro, NC, is being recognized for its performance as the Southeast Division Center-of-the-Year for fiscal year 2009.

MARTINSVILLE CHASSIS -- JGR 248 & 253: JGR 248 will carry the FedEx Freight paint this weekend at Martinsville. This is the second race this season and the first start for this car since winning at Pocono in August. JGR 253 will serve as the backup this weekend.

HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- MARTINSVILLE: !Two weeks, two consecutive DNFs. Have you ever had a stretch like this?: "Not that I can remember, honestly. This has been a rough patch for this FedEx team and obviously has us in a frustrating Chase situation. It's always hard to not finish races -- as a driver and a team that have been really consistent with our finishes, and consistent in finishing, it's really frustrating. The fact that for two weeks we've had very good cars and real opportunities to win races makes it even more so. In California the error was mine. At Charlotte we had a part failure. It's not that we aren't building race-winning race cars or that we aren't capable of running up front so we can take pride in that and the work we put in. We've had many more good races than bad but when it comes to the Chase, you just can't have a bad race. The hit you take in the points is too great. So we'll keep pushing on and fighting for wins."

Statistically speaking, Martinsville is one of your better tracks. Is that down to familiarity, the type of track and racing, or something else?: "It's probably a combination of all those - knowing the track and feeling comfortable with that type of racing. In terms of places where I have a lot of laps, certainly Martinsville is the place I have the most. Between the Late Model races here and then Cup, trucks and Nationwide this is a place I know well. On top of that, it's a track that reminds me of the kind of short flat tracks that I grew up on. While I know I have become a much better intermediate and superspeedway driver, those are still my best tracks."

This is a big week for FedEx on the race track. Will it be strange to see Kyle in a FedEx car at Memphis?: "I am really glad he's going to be there in Memphis flying the FedEx colors. He'll have a ton of employees behind him all pulling for him to win and, as he's shown all season, he wants nothing more than to get to victory lane. I know I will be pulling for him and the entire #18 team to bring home a win in FedEx's hometown."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing