Denny Hamlin Leads Early and Often in Nationwide Series Race at Phoenix, but Mid-Race Pit Miscue Leads to Runner-Up Finish Denny Hamlin started from the pole in Saturday's Hefty Odor Block 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix ...
Denny Hamlin Leads Early and Often in Nationwide Series Race at Phoenix, but Mid-Race Pit Miscue Leads to Runner-Up Finish
Denny Hamlin started from the pole in Saturday's Hefty Odor Block 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway and appeared ready to finish in the No. 1 spot as he promptly led the first 24 laps of the 201-lap event. But when the checkered flag dropped on the series' penultimate race of the 2008 season, Hamlin came up .096 of a second short to race winner Carl Edwards.
After Hamlin's first stint at the front of the 43-car field, the driver of the No. 18 DLP HDTV Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing relinquished the lead for only three laps to pit for tires and fuel before reasserting his presence at the top spot.
Hamlin led the next 38 circuits around the 1-mile oval before making his second scheduled pit stop on lap 66 during a caution period. It was there where Hamlin's race-winning effort drifted off course, for there was a miscue in the pits that forced him back down pit road one lap later.
The ordeal dropped Hamlin all the way to 25th when the race restarted on lap 71.
While a win seemed improbable, a strong finish did not. Hamlin rallied his way into the top-10 by lap 114 and cracked the top-five on lap 134.
Running in fourth when the race's final caution flag waved on lap 194, Hamlin pitted for four tires and fuel, while those ahead of him -- Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano -- stayed out. Also staying out was rookie Landon Cassill, who took over the fourth spot when the race restarted on lap 199. For the two-lap shootout to the finish, Hamlin slotted in at fifth, and suddenly, with four fresh tires compared to the race-worn slicks of those in front of him, a win appeared within reach.
Hamlin picked off Cassill and Logano on lap 199, and jettisoned Harvick for second on lap 200 while still needing less than a lap to take the win from Edwards. But time was not on Hamlin's side. As he drove off turn four and chased down Edwards, the checkered flag waved, with Edwards able to stay ahead of the hard-charging Hamlin.
"We were beside him at the finish," said Hamlin, who now four top-five finishes in eight career Nationwide Series starts at Phoenix. "I was pretty confident. You have to pass every car smooth after the restart. You have to have every opening and everything. We had an opportunity and came up short. It was still a great run by this DLP team. I'm glad to be in this car."
With the second-place finish, the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing entry, which has won 10 times already this season, moved up one spot to 22nd in the series' owner standings with 3,347 points.
There were nine caution periods for 41 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.