Richmond: Denny Hamlin preview

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Fight for Fourth at Talladega: Last Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega, though successful for Denny Hamlin and the ...

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Fight for Fourth at Talladega: Last Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega, though successful for Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team who scored a fourth-place finish, will certainly be scored as one that got away.

For the first 188 laps Hamlin was able to run the race he wanted, moving the #11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry in and around the draft, from deep in the pack to the lead spot, all while searching for effective partners and mapping out his strategy for the final laps. It appeared Hamlin needed only the right partner and the luck of the line for the restart to secure a first win at Talladega, however as the race went into extra time through three green-white-checkered attempts, Hamlin found himself stuck in fourth, running out of laps before he was able to catch eventual winner Kevin Harvick. The top-five finish, Hamlin's third in four races, sees the Virginia-native return to his hometown track sitting ninth in the Sprint Cup Series points standings -- a dramatic improvement considering he was scored in 19th place only four races ago.

Hamlin at Richmond International Raceway: This weekend will mark Hamlin's ninth-career Cup start at his hometown track, 161st career Cup start and yet another homecoming to the track where the Chesterfield-native sat in the stands studying the skills of his racing hero, Bill Elliott. Last fall, Hamlin put on a dominating display, leading 299 of 400 laps to record his first Cup win at his hometown track. A flawless drive by Hamlin -- supported by a perfect driver rating of 150.0 -- was met stride for stride by the #11 team who made smart changes all day, and consistently had Hamlin out of the box quickly.

In the spring of 2009, Hamlin led a race-high 148 laps but a slow late-race pit stop dropped him from first to eighth place for the restart on lap 278. As the race wound down, the lack of track position hurt Hamlin, and then fading brakes and tires saw him slide back to 14th by the end.

A year ago, Hamlin and the #11 team led four laps but fell out of the top-five through the middle section of the race before charging back to claim a hard-fought third place.

In the spring of 2008, the Chesterfield (Va.) native Hamlin and the #11 team thoroughly dominated the 400-lap event at Richmond, leading 381 laps in the Crown Royal 400 before a cut tire forced him to relinquish the lead and settle for a gut-wrenching 24th-place finish. Hamlin had a memorable debut at RIR, going wheel to wheel with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the spring of 2006 before ultimately finishing second on the day. Hamlin has captured two poles in front of his hometown fans and has led at least four laps in each of his previous starts at Richmond International.

FedEx Ground Desert Region Along for the Ride in Richmond: For the second time this season, the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota will carry the letters DSRT on the B-posts in recognition of the Desert Region's outstanding performance with regards to package care. The FedEx Ground Desert Region includes the cities of Las Vegas, El Paso and San Diego and the states of Arizona and New Mexico.

Richmond Chassis -- JGR 248 & 256: The FedEx team will unload Chassis JGR 248 this weekend in Richmond. This car has a perfect record to date, starting three races (Pocono -- Aug. 2009, Martinsville -- Oct. 2009, Homestead -- Nov. 2009) and winning all three times. JGR 256 will serve as the backup this weekend -- it started four races in 2009 and posted three top-five finishes.

HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- Richmond:

Looked like luck was the only thing missing in Talladega. Are you happy with a fourth-place finish?: "Well anytime you are running at the end of a race at Talladega you feel like you've accomplished something but we had such a good car and a really good chance of winning that race. We could push anyone to the front all race long, but I just ended up in the wrong line after those cautions and couldn't get there. We'll take that fourth place, take the points and this FedEx team will keep moving ahead. We have some good race tracks in front of us and a long ways to go but we are feeling pretty good about where we are right now."

Headed back to Richmond -- does the excitement of racing here change for you the more you come back?: "It never goes away -- it's still the race I look forward to the most and having my charity race as part of Richmond week makes it all that more special. Getting a win here last fall was really important to me and this team and we absolutely want to come back and do it again. We feel like this track is a place where we can run upfront every time we come here and I know we all would be disappointed to come here and not perform at the level we expect to."

Your charity race is getting bigger and bigger every year, talk about putting that together and what it means to you: "It's been really rewarding and it's become a big part of what the Denny Hamlin Foundation does. I learned a lot from FedEx about the impact you can have in the community as I was starting out in the Cup Series, and have worked to make sure my foundation follows that model. To give back through this foundation has been really rewarding for me and it makes me proud to know that we can help raise money and that the money is going to a really good cause. As far as the race, to have so many of my fellow competitors come out and support my charity is amazing and it says a lot about the people in the sport. We don't have that many days off so I know firsthand that these guys are probably giving up a night at home or with their family to come help me out and raise money for charity. I can't thank them enough, I know the fans appreciate it and are excited to see a good show."

-source: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Denny Hamlin