Race Report: CharlotteOctober 14, 2014
Denny Hamlin finished ninth in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway after contact from behind on the final restart dropped the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota from third in the 334-lap event won by Kevin Harvick.
Hamlin was third behind Harvick and eventual runner-up Jeff Gordon when the race’s final caution came out with six laps to go. Crew Chief Darian Grubb elected to keep the #11 machine on the track for the two-lap shootout, with Denny on the inside line. Heading into Turn 1 on the restart, Hamlin was hit from behind by Brad Keselowski and sent up the race track, losing momentum and a handful of spots before the checkered flag flew.
“We really didn’t need that last caution, but big picture, we’re still in decent shape in the Chase,” said Hamlin, following the race. “We were on our way to finishing third and then got hit and sent up the track in Turn 1 on the restart. It’s disappointing to finish ninth after putting ourselves in better position at the end of the race, but we’ll regroup and do what we need to do next week in Talladega.”
Hamlin started third, but after rain showers throughout the day and a green race track, he battled the handling of the #11 Toyota from the drop of the green flag. He fell back as far as 20th mid-race while Grubb called for a variety of changes during pit stops to try to free up the car’s handling.
On the second stop, jackman Nate Bolling suffered an arm injury and was replaced by Kenneth Purcell for the remainder of the race.
Hamlin restarted 14th on Lap 238 and rocketed up to eighth after a handful of laps before another caution. On the ensuing restart, he moved up to fourth in the running order before another yellow flag on Lap 268. Grubb called for a two-tire stop on pit road, and after quick work by the FedEx crew, Hamlin lined up second for the restart. He used the inside position to take the lead on Lap 272 and led 22 laps in the event.
Harvick and Gordon eventually got by Hamlin to move the #11 back to third before the final round of green flag pit stops with less than 30 laps to go.
The finish dropped Hamlin two spots to seventh in the Chase standings following Charlotte, 15 points behind leader Joey Logano after the second of three races in the Contender Round. Hamlin is 17 points ahead of ninth-place driver Matt Kenseth heading into next weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, where the top-eight drivers will advance to the Eliminator Round.