Hamlin, FedEx Racing Down in the Valley -- Finish 29th at Auto Club: Despite a fuel strategy that nearly had Denny Hamlin in perfect position to challenge for the win, two cut tires over the final 30 laps of last Sunday's Auto Club 500 relegated...
Hamlin, FedEx Racing Down in the Valley -- Finish 29th at Auto Club: Despite a fuel strategy that nearly had Denny Hamlin in perfect position to challenge for the win, two cut tires over the final 30 laps of last Sunday's Auto Club 500 relegated Hamlin to a bitterly disappointing 29th place finish. The #11 FedEx Racing team's fuel strategy allowed Hamlin to take the lead on lap 189 as the rain brought out the caution flag but as he circled the track at pit road speed he was ultimately forced to sacrifice the lead for fuel. It was at this point that the consecutive cut tires as the field went back to green flag racing took him from contention. He sits in 21st place in the points heading to Las Vegas this weekend.
Hamlin at Las Vegas: This weekend will mark Hamlin's fifth-career Cup start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Last season Hamlin scored a frustrating 22nd-place finish, suffering a lap-three incident that caused damage to the right front of the car, and then a lap 172 spin that further damaged the car and forced Hamlin a lap down before the end. In 2008 Hamlin and the #11 FedEx team fought back from going a lap down, racing through four cautions to climb back on to the lead lap and post an impressive ninth-place finish. In 2007, a decision to stay out when the final caution flew on lap 252 allowed Hamlin to restart in fourth place, but doing so on old tires. Not only did he hold his position, he made a late pass on Mark Martin to claim the third spot at the line. In 2006, Hamlin's debut at the 1.5-mile track, the combination of a smart drive from the rookie driver and quick work on pit road earned the team a tenth-place finish.
Las Vegas Chassis -- JGR 248 and 246: The FedEx team will unload Chassis JGR 248 this weekend in Las Vegas. This car has two starts and two wins to its credit -- taking the checkered flag at both Pocono and Martinsville in 2009. Chassis 246 sat on the pole at Auto Club in the fall of 2009 and will serve as the backup this weekend.
FedEx Ground Desert Region Along for the Ride in Las Vegas: The #11 FedEx Ground Toyota will carry the letters DSRT on the B-posts for Sunday's race in recognition of the Desert Region's outstanding performance with regards to package care. The FedEx Ground Desert Region includes not only the cities of Las Vegas, El Paso and San Diego but also the entire states of Arizona and New Mexico.
HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- Las Vegas:
Two tough weeks in a row -- Is Vegas the place to turn your luck around?: "I hope so, we need it. We didn't have the best car at Fontana but we definitely deserved a better finish than we ended up with. To be in a good position to race for a win and to have not one but two tires go down was hard to take and hard not to chalk up as bad luck. Vegas is a place where we have actually run really well in the past and even though last season wasn't as good, we still feel like we can go there and really challenge for a win. That's our mentality despite what happened in Daytona and California and it will be for the rest of the season. We know from past experience that it is a very long season and we have some time to work with."
This season is starting to look a lot like past seasons with the results not necessarily reflecting performance: "I guess that's the way it works for us - usually in a bit of a hole coming out of Daytona and then forced to chip away at the points. The result at California didn't help but we are focused on getting our performance right and we feel like things will fall into place. Hopefully we are getting some our bad luck out of the way early in the season when it can only hurt you so bad. We need that all out of the way by the end of the season."
How does Las Vegas Motor Speedway stack up against the rest of the 1.5-mile tracks?: "Vegas is a fast track, much more like Charlotte since they made the changes to the track a few years ago. It's unique in that the transitions are different than other intermediates but you get really close racing. The track changes over the course of the race so the driver can usually find a place where the car works. It's a fun track and I think the fans get a good show."
It's no secret you enjoy visiting Vegas: "Vegas is a great location for a race -- there is always something to do. The city is welcoming of the sport, we saw that when the banquet moved there last year, and the track is always working hard to bring in fans and improve the racing. They have done a great job with the garage and the infield in making it accessible to the fans. From a racing standpoint, the softer tire has made a big difference. We have more grip and the speeds are up but the racing was as good as it has ever been there. I am excited to get back there and see what they have in store for us this year."