Hamlin Captures Top-Five Finish at Phoenix to Advance to Chase Championship RoundNovember 10, 2014
Denny Hamlin finished fifth in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, punching his ticket in the Championship Round of the Chase playoffs with a chance at the title next weekend.
Hamlin is one of four drivers, alongside Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman, vying for the 2014 championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16.
The FedEx Racing Team overcame an early setback on pit road through excellent pit strategy calls by crew chief Darian Grubb, quick stop by the crew in the pits and a gutsy drive by Hamlin.
“What a great comeback by this entire FedEx team,” said Hamlin. “It was a true testament to hard work and grinding out this finish. We overcame a lot today and I couldn’t be more proud of our effort. Nobody expected us to be here, so we can go to Miami with no pressure, have fun and try to win the championship.”
The #11 machine started on the pole and Hamlin led the first 24 laps of the race. Pitting from fourth during the race’s first caution on Lap 32, the valve stem was knocked off the right-rear wheel, and when Hamlin returned to the track before the restart, the tire was flat. He was forced back to pit road and dropped to 36th for the restart.
Hamlin went down a lap on the track to Harvick twice during the 312-lap event, and utilized the free pass to get back on the lead lap after timely cautions. The final time, Hamlin restarted 19th and drove up to 14th before another yellow. After a two -tire stop on pit road, Hamlin came out sixth and remained in the top-10 for the remainder of the event.
The race’s final caution came on Lap 298, and Hamlin retained his fifth-place position at the checkered flag.
The point standings will be reset for the final race next Sunday, and the highest-finishing driver among the four contenders will be crowned the champion.