Monday Masters - Hamlin, FedEx Racing Triumph in Texas: Denny Hamlin and the ...
Monday Masters - Hamlin, FedEx Racing Triumph in Texas: Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team are making a habit of waiting out the rain, then outrunning their opponents. Earlier this season, Hamlin turned the frustration of being rained out on Sunday into an impressive win at Martinsville Speedway.
Three weeks, and one reconstructive knee surgery later, Hamlin and team replicated that performance, claiming the win in the rain-delayed Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway by consistently improving the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota throughout the afternoon.
After starting 29th on Monday, it took a total team effort to get Hamlin into position as the end of the race neared. On pit road, Ford and the #11 team made smart changes and gained positions while Hamlin, still suffering through rehabilitation following surgery, showed no ill-effect as he drove an incredibly smart race, taking what the car gave him but never forcing the issue enough to put the car at risk.
With the race hanging in the balance under caution on lap 319, Hamlin visited pit road for two tires only, restarted second on lap 322, and then stormed past Jeff Burton on lap 323 to claim the lead. He never looked back as he led the final 12 laps of the race and held off a late charge from Jimmie Johnson to post his second win of the 2010 season.
Hamlin at Talladega Superspeedway: This weekend will mark Denny Hamlin's ninth Cup start at Talladega and his 160th career Cup start. Last fall a potentially great day was spoiled by an engine parts failure on lap 137 that sent Hamlin to the garage and ultimately relegated him to a 38th-place finish.
Up until that point, Hamlin had calmly navigated the #11 Toyota to the front on five occasions to lead a total of 11 laps, all while feeling out a machine that was clearly among the best in the field. A year ago, Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team led on seven occasions for a total of 28 laps before being caught up in a multi-car incident with only seven laps to go.
Despite having a dominant car for much of the race, Hamlin was unable to make it back to the front before the checkered flag came out and was scored in 22nd place. Previous races at the 2.66-mile superspeedway have seen the #11 team substantially raise their game -- building very good race cars and consistently leading laps.
HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- Talladega:
Another Monday win, more questions about your knee answered -- how are you feeling?: "It still hurts -- I can't lie and tell you it feels great but it's getting better and I knew it was going to be a long process. Texas was more comfortable than Phoenix by a lot and I think Talladega will be better yet. Still working on the range of motion and in a few weeks, we'll start some more intense rehab to strengthen the knee and my leg to get it back to where it was. I would say I am at 60% right now. Still have a ways to go but we are on track to be at our very best when we need to be."
Two wins in eight races -- that's statistically the best start to a season you've had in the Cup Series. Does it change your approach?: "It doesn't really change much at all. We've always saved our best performances and won races in the summer or fall but it's encouraging for us to know that we can win races on all types of tracks and be competitive all the time. Everyone knows just how important the win bonus is when it comes to the Chase. In the past Jimmie (Johnson) has had such a large lead that he could have an off week and not really suffer for it. With as strong as they are, you can't give them any extra cushion. We obviously want to keep up performance, and ideally make the Chase with as many wins under our belt as possible."
Nice to get another intermediate win to go along with your reputation of being one of the Series' top short track guys. How close are you to getting a first Cup superspeedway win?: "In a lot of ways we have probably been better on the superspeedways than we have on the intermediates but to have that win at Homestead to end last season, then go to a place like Texas and win has put an emphasis on just how much our program has improved over the last year. We missed at Vegas this spring and we didn't panic because we knew this is what we could do when we are on. We expect to be on at these tracks now and you need to be able to be competitive at every type of track if you want to challenge for a championship. As far as superspeedways, we have been really competitive at Talladega and Daytona -- in a few races I think we can say we've had the best car but anyone can tell you that doesn't always get you a win on these types of tracks. You need good strategy, a good amount of luck, and some good help. I think we are close, I know the equipment is there. It's a matter of putting together a full race now and there is no time like this weekend to do it."