Phoenix: Denny Hamlin preview

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Win at Martinsville: The friendly confines of Martinsville Speedway offered the perfect opportunity for Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team to put a frustrating start to 2010 behind them -- it also provided the backdrop for...

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Win at Martinsville: The friendly confines of Martinsville Speedway offered the perfect opportunity for Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team to put a frustrating start to 2010 behind them -- it also provided the backdrop for one of the best finishes and memorable wins of Hamlin's career. The decision to pit from the lead with less than ten laps remaining appeared to have ended Hamlin's chances of winning, but the strategy worked and the combination of four fresh tires, Hamlin's sterling drive, and a well-timed caution put Hamlin in position to claim the win. The Virginia native led 172 laps on the day to claim his first win of the 2010 season and a third grandfather clock trophy. The win elevates him to 15th in the Sprint Cup standings heading to Phoenix.

Hamlin has Successful ACL Surgery: Following a dramatic win at Martinsville, Hamlin underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. The procedure, performed by Dr. Patrick Connor at OrthoCarolina in Charlotte, was successful and Hamlin has embarked on a strenuous rehabilitation program with the intention of making good on his plan to be behind the wheel of the #11 FedEx Toyota at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. Joe Gibbs Racing will have veteran driver Casey Mears on standby this weekend at Phoenix should Hamlin be unable to race.

"Denny has been working hard on his rehab and has been making good progress" said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. "We have another day or two before we head out to Phoenix, so we'll see where we are at for this weekend, but we also will have Casey (Mears) out there should we need him."

FedEx Racing and March of Dimes Team up for Babies at Phoenix: Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs and representatives from FedEx Office and the March of Dimes unveiled a special #11 FedEx Office/March of Dimes Toyota on Thursday, March 25 at the Joe Gibbs Racing shop in Huntersville. The car will run at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend in effort to raise awareness for the March of Dimes and March for Babies fundraising walks. Hamlin also will be wearing a helmet specially designed for him by triplets Morgan, Preston and Chase Copeland. The Copeland's were born seven weeks premature in 2005 and now serve as ambassadors for the March of Dimes. For those interested in supporting this great cause, please visit for more information on the March for Babies and information on how to participate or pledge support.

Hamlin at Phoenix International Raceway: This weekend will mark Hamlin's tenth start at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) and his 158th career start at the Cup level. Despite not having a win at PIR, Hamlin and the #11 team have performed very well, posting four top-three finishes to date. Last fall, the #11 FedEx Racing team ran strong, ultimately posting yet another third-place finish at the 1.0-mile track. After a final pit stop on lap 242, Hamlin found himself less that a second behind eventual winner Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin methodically carved into the lead, closing to within .29 seconds with less than 30 laps to run but that was as close as he would get. When Jeff Burton reached his bumper and passed him on lap 284, there was no recourse for Hamlin but to run out the race in third. One year ago, the #11 team rolled the dice on Saturday night at PIR, using pit road strategy to score an impressive sixth-place finish in the Subway Fresh Fit 500. With ten laps to go and the race under caution, Crew Chief Mike Ford called for two tires only and Hamlin lined up the #11 FedEx Toyota in fourth place for the restart before finishing sixth. In the fall of 2008, Hamlin continued a string of good runs at PIR by posting a fifth-place finish. In the spring race of 2008, Hamlin and the #11 team looked to have nailed their fuel strategy and ran in third place after their last stop on lap 296 only to watch the cars running in first and second stretch their fuel loads to the end. In the fall 2007 event, Hamlin suffered through an agonizing race that included two pit-road speeding penalties on his way to a 16th-place finish. Earlier that season, Hamlin led 70 laps and was well on his way to challenging for a win before a pit road speeding penalty sent him to the tail end of the field. Despite working his way back, he had to settle for a frustrating third-place finish. Hamlin made his debut at PIR in the fall of 2005 in only his sixth career Cup start and secured his first career pole before finishing 13th on the night.

FedEx Office Center and Employee Along for the Ride in Phoenix: In honor of the March of Dimes being represented on the #11 FedEx Office Toyota this weekend, the car will carry special identifiers on both b-posts. The driver's side will feature the letters LTG in recognition of Lelon Thomas Gilbert. His uncle, Stephen Sasenick, a FedEx Office center manager based in Olathe, Kansas, has already raised over $1700 in donations for the March of Dimes through his online walker page. Stephen chose to honor his nephew who was born prematurely last year. On the passenger side, FedEx Office sales group #0271, also based in Olathe, is being recognized for the amount of donations their center has raised through fundraising events and the donations from online walker pages.

Phoenix Chassis -- JGR 263 and 246: The FedEx team will unload Chassis JGR 263 this weekend in Phoenix. This car posted a third-place finish at Phoenix last fall. Chassis 246 will serve as the backup this weekend -- this car won at Richmond in Sept. of 2009.


Six days after surgery -- how is your knee feeling?: "It's painful -- as anyone who has had this surgery or any similar surgery can tell you -- but I am working hard to get back my full range of motion and get back to where I need to be. The actual surgery went very well, no issues and no concerns so I owe big thanks to Dr. Connor and his team. They took good care of me and gave me every opportunity to be back in the car this weekend. All I can do now is work hard, follow the rehab program and see how fast I can get back. I have a couple of days yet to see how my knee responds and that will help me make the right decision when I get to Phoenix this weekend."

What kind of rehab are you doing?: "Right now I am pretty much doing full days of rehab, working to get back my full range of motion, keeping the knee flexible and working to make it stronger while I get more comfortable with what I can and can't do right now. I spend three hours on the machine working on my range and I am making a lot of progress. It gets better every day and I know I am ahead of schedule for a surgery like this. I do a lot of work on my back, working my quad and stretching and spend a lot time icing it too. It's coming around but it's a long and hard process and I knew that was going to be the case. It's not fun but I know that doing this now was absolutely the right thing to do -- now I am focused on getting back to racing."

How important was that Martinsville win, both in terms of getting the season back on track and giving this team a boost before your surgery?: "The win felt like a long time coming even though we are only six races into this season. There were really high expectations coming off last season and every race where we didn't run as well as we wanted seemed to lead to more questions and concerns from outside of the team. Inside, we weren't panicking because we had been pretty good in almost every race. To win at Martinsville sets some of that aside I hope. The win points us in the right direction and takes us into what will be our next challenge of getting past this knee surgery but it's a long season and a lot can happen. We know we have a lot of work left to do."

-source: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing