Charlotte Motor Speedway
All-Star Race Recap: Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team finished seventh in last Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Improving in each of the first three segments from the 15th starting position in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Hamlin found himself in fifth place prior to the mandatory four-tire pit stop that preceded the final 10-lap dash to the checkered flag. Hamlin was in sixth after the pit stop, but was unable to make up ground on the leaders and finished seventh. The team battled a tight race car throughout the opening 50-lap segment, but crew chief Mike Ford called for a series of tire pressure adjustments to help the car’s handling. The car worked better in the cleaner air near the front of the pack late in the second segment and throughout the third segment, but the team was never able to gain the necessary track position to compete for the win. It was Hamlin’s third top-10 finish in five All-Star starts.
Hamlin Set for Season’s Longest Race: Following last weekend’s non-points event, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the campaign. The 400-lap, 600-mile event is the 12th regular season race of the 2011 season. Hamlin has made 11 points race starts at Charlotte, with a best finish of fourth in last October’s 400-mile Chase race at the 1.5-mile track. He also recorded his first-career top-10 finish at Charlotte in the fall 2005 race, an eighth-place result in just his second start. In five Coke 600 starts, Hamlin’s best finish of ninth came in 2006 and 2007. He finished 18th one year ago. Hamlin currently sits 13th in the Cup Series point standings heading into this weekend, 112 points behind current leader Carl Edwards. Hamlin is just 24 points out of 10th position with 15 races until the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins. Sunday’s race will be the 199th of Hamlin’s Cup Series career.
HAMLIN CONVERSATION – CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY:
Do you feel the difference with Sunday’s 600-mile race, the longest of the year? “To be honest, I don’t feel the difference in length, the extra 100 miles, in the car over running 500 miles. You are so focused, and especially at a place like Charlotte where you are running high speeds and the laps go by quickly, you don’t sense it. The only time it hits me during this race is when we reach the halfway point and it seems like we’ve already run a lot of laps. It’s a long race, no doubt about it. It tests the crews and it tests the drivers. The change in conditions means you have to build a lot of adjustability into the car or you’ll end up chasing the track and that can make for a long day out there. Mike has always been really good at making sure we have room to work on the car and that’s the way you need to approach this race maybe more so than any other race during the season.
What has experience here at Charlotte, both in the 600 and in the fall race, taught you? “For one, it really helps to qualify good here. We always feel good about our equipment here but we’ve had some cases where we’ve been caught in traffic and had contact or something happen that has hurt us early. And then we just can’t beat ourselves at this track. We’ve been really good here but we need to make the end and that means good changes, good stops and being smart on the track. This is a long race and there is no reason to put your car in a tough spot early on.”