CJM Racing Completes Season with Five Consecutive Top-10 Finishes
Homestead, Florida - CJM Racing completed the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series as one of the best teams in the garage. In a breakout season for the team, Denny Hamlin put a punctuation mark to the end of the year driving the No. 11 GodSpeaks.com Toyota to a fifth-place finish. The team ended the year with 12 top-10 finishes, 5 top-five finishes and two runner-up finishes. This all in only their second full season of competition.
As many teams, drivers and owners look forward to the end of the season, it was the complete opposite for CJM Racing. The last three months have elevated the team to one of the best in the Nationwide garage. The team was looking for their first signature win, and with Hamlin behind the wheel the team was very confident heading into Saturday night's Ford 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The team arrived with a new car and Hamlin gave it quick approval by running quick lap times. The team was third fastest after two practice sessions Friday and looking forward to a strong run on Saturday. The team qualified sixth and was now prepared for the 200-lap affair.
A late afternoon start, the race was a transition day-to-night event. The race started off well for Hamlin moving up to fifth by the first caution on lap nine for a spinning Brad Keselowski. Hamlin reported to team crew chief Paul Wolfe that the car was a little "free in," but was still running quick laps.
Hamlin ran in the top 10 until contact with Keselowski on lap 34 caused some minor damage to the hood. The team was set back again after NASCAR enforced a one-lap penalty on Hamlin for the incident. They were now back to the 35th spot, one lap off the leaders. The team continued to make adjustments to better their Toyota Camry and get themselves back on the lead lap. Their wish was granted on lap 90 when a caution gave them the free pass to get back on the lead lap. They also took advantage of the pass to cap off their fuel tank before going back to green.
The team was also fighting a car down on horsepower. A cracked header left the team down on power and they couldn't fix it during the race.
Starting 22nd when the race resumed on lap 97, Hamlin moved to 14th by lap 125, and as cars started to pit for fuel CJM Racing was left leading the field for a total of seven laps. The team came down pit road on lap 156 for four fresh tires and fuel. The caution came out and reset the field with Hamlin in great position, running fifth with fresher tires than most. He moved up to fourth on lap 170.
A late caution on lap 186 sent Hamlin down pit road for one final stop. The team took four more fresh tires hoping to grab a top-three finish or potential win. Quick work by the crew lined Hamlin up 11th for the final run. He capped it off with a top-five finish for CJM Racing and a great comeback for team.
"It was a long day," said Hamlin. "We fought and fought to try and get it and the long green-flag runs really hurt us with track position. Luckily we had some cautions at the end that really helped us. We had a mechanical issue with the header and it was everything we had at the end to run with the guys. Overall it was still a good run."