Hamlin, FedEx Racing 11th in Richmond: When the checkered flag flew to end Saturday's Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Denny Hamlin and the ...
Hamlin, FedEx Racing 11th in Richmond: When the checkered flag flew to end Saturday's Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team looked at the 11th-place finish as a lesson in perseverance. At a track where the team has been dominant in past years, the team suffered though a tough night to score a hard fought finish and remain in the thick of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship race. From the drop of the green flag on Saturday night, Hamlin methodically worked his way forward, all the while fighting a car that remained far too tight to be a force on the .75-mile track. Through myriad changes and adjustments to the track bar, wedge and air pressure, Hamlin found himself inside of the top-ten, and then inside of the top-five as the laps counted down. Unfortunately, the late race cautions that have become a trademark of the Cup Series this season forced Hamlin to restart a FedEx Ground Toyota that preferred the long run to the short. After 400 laps, 11th place was the best the team could do. The result sees Hamlin gain two spots in the Sprint Cup Series points standings and he'll head to Darlington in seventh place.
Hamlin at Darlington Raceway: Hamlin will be making his fifth-career Cup start at the famous Darlington Raceway, and 162nd career Cup start this weekend. Hamlin's Nationwide Series record at Darlington is well known - but his Cup record may be equally impressive given his limited amount of starts. Last season Hamlin scored a 13th-place finish, despite suffering handling issues and being involved in on-track incidents that left him a lap down for much of the race. Perseverance behind the wheel and on pit road saw Hamlin methodically work his way back into the top-15 as the laps counted down. In May of 2008 Hamlin started 21st and worked his way to the front to lead 15 laps. However, with leading also came the responsibility of deciding whether to pit or stay out when the caution flag flew. That decision came for the #11 team on lap 248 and they chose fuel and fresh rubber while several others made the decision to stay on track. Restarting back in the traffic, Hamlin made his way forward but never fully recovered from the loss of track position -- finishing seventh on the night. In 2007, Hamlin led 179 laps before a dropped lug nut on pit road forced him back to 15th place with only 65 laps to run. He charged forward to finish a tough-to-accept second place. In 2006, Hamlin ran in the top five for the first half of the race before negotiating handling issues and a cooling track to secure a 10th-place finish in his Cup debut at Darlington. Of special note is the fact this track played a big role in getting Hamlin into a Nationwide and Cup series ride at Joe Gibbs Racing as well. Just three months after turning in a top-ten debut in the Truck Series at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Denny lined up for his first Busch series race at one of NASCAR's trickiest tracks. Despite the considerable odds against him, he earned well-deserved acclaim as he posted a top-ten finish in his Darlington debut.
Darlington Chassis -- JGR 267 & 256: The FedEx team will unload Chassis JGR 267 this weekend in Darlington. This car has one start to its name, a win at Martinsville earlier this season. JGR 256 will serve as the backup this weekend -- it started four races in 2009 and posted three top-five finishes.
HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- Darlington:
Darlington is a place where you've had a lot of success. What is it about this track that you like?: "Darlington rewards consistency and I like to think that is one of my better attributes as a driver. I think that really comes down to the fact that as a driver, and based on my upbringing, I really try not to put the car in bad situations. That sometimes means I am not likely to do anything wild - unless I am absolutely forced to or the race is on the line. This is one of the tracks that you really need to run almost perfectly if you want to make it back in one piece. Between the surface, running right up against the wall and the 42 other drivers, I expect Darlington to test me every lap and I will have to be at my best all race. As a team, we take generally take a steady approach when it comes to making changes and that works at Darlington. We have a philosophy of making small improvements all race long so we have the car at its best when the race is on the line. I've been fortunate to win here in the Nationwide Series and I want that success to carry over to the Cup side."
Will your mom be at Darlington to celebrate this weekend?: "She never misses this race. It's important to her to be here because it's Mother's Day weekend and Darlington always does a nice job of honoring all of the moms before the race. I know it means a lot to them and it's important to all of us to show our thanks as well. Hopefully we can celebrate a good race together, but I also know we'll be having a Mother's Day brunch on Sunday morning and that's just as important."
You've always said your mom was the force behind your racing career: "It's true -- she was the one that pushed me and gave me confidence to keep going. She always had a faith that I could succeed and was willing to help me however she could. I really can't thank her enough. Now that I am in the Cup series and doing what I always hoped I could, she's been really active in this racing community too. You can find her out at the merchandise trailer or working with the fan club. She been great with the fans and their reaction to her is awesome. I can't tell you how many times I am asked to sign something and I see my mom's signature right there already."
Mary Lou Hamlin on Denny: "I am so proud of Denny and what he's accomplished. The racing part has been rewarding because it's what he always wanted to do and he committed himself to following this dream. Even more important to me as a mom is the satisfaction that you get watching your kids grow up and become adults, and take on responsibility. I was reminded of that again last week when Denny's foundation was able to give back so much to the community and to charity. That's really what makes me the most proud of all."