Denny Hamlin Finishes Third in Chase for Sprint Cup StandingsNovember 17, 2014
Denny Hamlin finished seventh in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and third in the final Chase standings to race winner and champion Kevin Harvick.
Hamlin battled in the top-five throughout the 267-lap event at the 1.5-mile oval and was in position to win his first-career NASCAR title with less than 30 laps remaining before a host of late-race cautions and varying pit strategies doomed the FedEx Racing Team in the end.
Running second when a caution came on Lap 249, crew chief Darian Grubb elected to keep Hamlin on the track while most of the lead lap cars came to pit road for new tires. Hamlin jumped out to the lead on the restart, but unfortunately, a wreck behind him brought out another caution and gave Harvick the opportunity to restart closer to the front of the field.
With that caution, Hamlin was at a serious disadvantage on tires and fell to seventh in the final three-lap dash to the checkered flag.
"We had a championship effort today, but the cautions and strategy just didn't fall in our favor," said Hamlin, who has now finished in the top-three in points in three of his nine full-time NASCAR seasons. "We had the best car in the second half of the race and it really came to life late in runs, but we just didn't have those long green flag runs. I'm proud of the effort of our FedEx team and we can't hang our heads. We did everything we could, but just came up short."
Hamlin started eighth and moved into the top-five less than five laps into the race. He spent the entire event at the front with Harvick, Jeff Gordon and fellow Chase competitor Joey Logano at the front of the field in a thrilling back-and-forth battle. Hamlin led five times for a total of 50 laps.
Ryan Newman wound up second in the race and the championship, while Logano faded to 16th in the event and fourth in the title hunt.
The Sprint Cup Series will enjoy a three-month offseason before returning for the 2015 Daytona 500 in February.