Watkins Glen: Denny Hamlin race report

Hopes of a Top-Five Finish Vanish for the RIDEMAKERZ Team in the Closing Laps of the Zippo 200 (August 8, 2009) Watkins Glen, NY -- The NASCAR Nationwide Series hit their first road-course race of the season at Watkins Glen International over...

Hopes of a Top-Five Finish Vanish for the RIDEMAKERZ Team in the Closing Laps of the Zippo 200

(August 8, 2009) Watkins Glen, NY -- The NASCAR Nationwide Series hit their first road-course race of the season at Watkins Glen International over the weekend. In addition to it being the first road-course race, it would also mark the first time Sprint Cup regular Denny Hamlin would get behind the wheel of the No. 11 RIDEMAKERZ Toyota. The No. 11 was a predominant force during practice all the way up to the closing 15 laps of the race. While running in the second position, Hamlin reported in a problem with the race car. The problem was detrimental and would send the RIDEMAKERZ Toyota to the garage early. The team settled for a disappointing 34th place finish.

Things looked promising for the RIDEMAKERZ team as they unloaded Friday morning. In the first of two committed races with CJM Racing, Denny Hamlin was able to wheel the No. 11 machine to the second place position in the initial practice session. The final session brought about some challenges to the team. The car had inherited a skip and the guys decided to change everything they could think of to resolve the issue. Despite, the slight hiccup, the RIDEMAKERZ Toyota Camry posted the eighth quickest time in the final session.

In the hills of Upstate NY, teams came in Saturday morning with their game faces on. First on the agenda was qualifying. Road-course qualifying differs from oval track qualifying as the cars are sent out in groups determined by practice speeds. Since Hamlin was one of the fastest cars out on track Friday, the No. 11 RIDEMAKERZ Toyota went out in the final group. After three long trips around the track, Hamlin was able to place the RIDEMAKERZ Toyota in the fifth qualifying position. The effort tied the teams' best qualifying effort of fifth back in Nashville.

Race time brought with it a lot of anticipation. The team was anxious to get the 82 lap race underway and see just what the No. 11 Camry could do.

As the green flag waved, Hamlin maintained his track position only allowing one car to pass him as lap six came around. The report on the car was, "the car is great, just losing speed on the straight-aways. I'm happy balance wise though."

Fuel strategy was going to play a huge factor in who ended up winning the Zippo 200. With that in mind, Paul Wolfe (crew chief) kept Hamlin out on the track for as long as he possibly could. When fuel began to run short, Hamlin was brought to pit road on lap 18 for four tires fuel and a small track bar adjustment to help with a free off handling condition.

Back out on the race track, Hamlin was gaining momentum from the green flag pit stop and found himself up into the 13th position by lap 33. By the halfway point the No. 11 RIDEMAKERZ Toyota was sitting comfortably in the top-10. The team hoped that the pit stop on lap 45 would be the final one of the day. Hamlin brought the Toyota Camry down pit road for four tires and fuel. He was happy with the handling so no adjustments were made.

The concern over fuel mileage plagued the top running teams and Hamlin did his best to conserve fuel while advancing multiple positions. From the 10th position on the restart, he moved up to second by lap 64.

One lap later is when the good turned to bad. Hamlin reported in that he, "possibly had a loose wheel. The car is smoking." Upon further examination from the spotter and surrounding drivers, it was determined that the RIDEMAKERZ Toyota had an issue with the track bar. The car was brought down pit road and the crew quickly assessed the damage. The No. 11 had suffered a right side broken track bar mount. In an effort to fix the suspension troubles, Hamlin brought the RIDEMAKERZ Toyota down pit road twice for repairs.

Unable to make the proper repairs on pit road, Hamlin pulled the No. 11 back to the Nationwide Series garage. With only a limited amount of laps remaining in the race, Paul Wolfe made the call to end the day. The No. 11 RIDEMAKERZ Toyota Camry would be credited with the 34th place finish as the day ended.

CJM Racing and Denny Hamlin will have a chance at redemption next weekend at Michigan International Speedway. The Carfax 250 will air LIVE on ESPN2 on Saturday, August 15th at 3:00 pm (EST).

-credit: cjmr

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Drivers Paul Wolfe , Denny Hamlin