Race Report: LoudonSeptember 23, 2014
Denny Hamlin finished 37th in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway won by Joey Logano. The finish dropped Denny seven spots to 13th in the Chase standings, 48 points behind leader Brad Keselowski, with one race remaining in the first round of eliminations.
A two-time winner at the flat one-mile oval in Loudon, NH, Hamlin moved to second from his fourth-place starting position at the drop of the green flag. A competition caution on lap 35 saw quick work by Darian Grubb and the FedEx pit crew get Denny out in the lead after changing right-side tires only.
Hamlin led the field for the next 32 laps before dropping back to second. On lap 95 he pitted for four tires and fuel, returning to the race in 25th, followed by and untimely caution trapping the FedEx car one lap down. After the stop, Grubb realized there was a problem with the fuel probe in the car as it wasn't allowing the crew to fill the tank. Forced to make three stops under caution, the crew fixed the problem, but returned to the race 41st, four laps down.
"We somehow couldn't get fuel in the car and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of our day," said Hamlin. "Gosh, you just can't have any mistakes in this three race deal -- from the driver, from the crew, the team -- no one can really make a mistake in three races and unfortunately no one did, it's just we had a mechanical failure. We had a great car running top-two all day and it's just part of it."
Adding insult to injury, at lap 180, three cars tangled in front of Hamlin, who was unable to avoid hard contact with the right front of the FedEx Ground Toyota, resulting in a trip to the garage for lengthy suspension repairs. Hamlin rejoined the race in 39th place, 38 laps behind the leader.
"We were five laps down and were trying to get some back with wave-a-rounds," said Hamlin, "but our tone was pretty much set and I was up in the high line. Saw the wreck happen, hit the brakes and got into loose stuff and just couldn't stop the car at that point. It's disappointing because obviously on performance we're good enough to move on, but can't have any mistakes in this three race deal."
The top-12 drivers in points will move on to the second segment of the Chase after the next NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 28.