Texas II: Denny Hamlin preview

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Tripped up in Talladega: A stellar car and the momentum of a hard-fought Martinsville win a week earlier looked to have Denny Hamlin and the ...

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Tripped up in Talladega: A stellar car and the momentum of a hard-fought Martinsville win a week earlier looked to have Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team poised for a big weekend at Talladega. Unfortunately, a potentially great day was spoiled by an engine parts failure on lap 137 that sent Hamlin to the garage and ultimately relegated him to a 38th-place finish. It was a frustrating end to a promising day and a painful reminder of the engine failure that struck the team only two weeks earlier in Charlotte. Up to lap 137, Hamlin had comfortably navigated the traffic at Talladega, calmly moving the #11 Toyota to the front on five occasions to lead a total of 11 laps, all while feeling out a machine that was clearly among the best in the field. The 38th-place finish sees Hamlin drop to 11th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup points heading to Texas this weekend.

Hamlin at Texas Motor Speedway: This weekend will mark Hamlin's ninth start at Texas Motor Speedway and 149th career Cup Series start. Earlier this season, Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team scored a hard-fought 12th-place finish at Texas, battling handling issues for much of the race but still managing to achieve their highest position by the time the checkered flag came out. Hamlin started from the 22nd spot on the grid and methodically worked his way forward over the course of a long and trying afternoon. In general, this 1.5-mile track has been very good to Hamlin and the #11 FedEx team since the Chesterfield (Va.) native was introduced as the full-time driver of the #11 car in Nov. of 2005. In only his fifth career Cup start, he piloted the #11 FedEx Chevy to a seventh-place finish.

Hamlin has continued to perform well since, recording a fourth-place finish in the spring race last season, and posting a tenth-place finish in the 2006 edition of the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Despite going a lap down in the spring 2007 event at TMS, Hamlin and team rallied back for a ninth-place finish. In the fall of 2007, Hamlin led 45 laps and battled for the lead with Matt Kenseth late in the race before making contact with the outside wall. Damage to the #11 forced Hamlin to the garage for repair and he would ultimately finish 29th - a result that didn't do justice to the strength of the car or the effort by the team that day. In the spring of 2008 Hamlin posted a fifth-place finish at Texas, scoring his fourth top-ten finish at the track, and then scored a 17th-place finish in the fall after fighting handling issues throughout the race.

FedEx Office Store Group #0575 "Along for the Ride" in Texas: In recognition of being named Most Improved, FedEx Office store group #0575 will be featured on the wing caps of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. The group is located in Dallas, the hometown of FedEx Office.

Texas Chassis -- JGR 256 & 253: The #11 team will unload JGR 256 this weekend at Texas. This car last ran two weeks ago at Charlotte where Hamlin led 54 laps before engine trouble forced him from the race. This car scored a fifth-place finish at Kansas and second-place finish at New Hampshire. JGR 253 will serve in backup duty this weekend.

HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- Texas:

You said you feel like this team is taking one step forward, two steps back lately. Is Texas a step forward track?: "It should be for this team. I love this track, really like to race there and this team has brought some really strong race cars to Texas in the past. With the way our intermediate program has improved this season, we like our chances at a place like Texas. Even looking back at Charlotte when we had engine troubles, we had a really strong car -- a race winning car -- and that was the best we had ever performed at a track that can be tough to figure out. So we are bringing the same car back at Texas and from my point of view that gives me a lot to look forward to."

This Chase has really been bad luck on top of bad luck -- how do you approach the rest of the season?: "We were feeling pretty good after Martinsville and the win, and were hoping that with some tough breaks at California and Charlotte behind us that we could focus on getting back into the top-five but another big points hit at Talladega doesn't help us. This FedEx team has great communication and we just have to reevaluate our goals after a race like we had at Talladega. We need to be realistic about what we can do in terms of points but that doesn't change our focus on winning races. Starting this week we feel like we are going to three tracks where we can win. Texas has been a good track for us -- probably better than the finishes show. Phoenix is a place where we've been really good in the past and Homestead is a track we are looking forward to getting back to because of our improved intermediate program."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin