Strong Run Ends with a Disappointing 28th-Place Finish in CaliforniaMarch 23, 2015
Box Score Info:
RACE: Auto Club 400
TRACK: Auto Club Speedway
DRIVER: Denny Hamlin
CAR: No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota
LAPS LED: Two Times for 56 Laps
POINTS POSITION: 14th
· For the fifth race of the 2015 season and last of the West Coast swing, Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry team rolled off the starting grid for the Auto Club 400 from the sixth position.
· Immediately moving to the top of the track, Hamlin moved in to fifth on lap one and was running in the third position when the first caution waved on lap 22. Reporting to the team that he was loose off of turn four and tight rolling through both ends of the 2-mile track, Hamlin pitted for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure and wedge adjustment. The race restarted with Hamlin in 11th place.
· Using the high line, Hamlin was able to move through the field and take the lead for the first time on lap 32.
· Radioing the team on lap 51, Hamlin informed crew chief Dave Rogers he was a little tight through the center and loose off the turns. As the race continued, teams were forced to make green-flag stops with Hamlin making his stop on lap 61 for four fresh tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Hamlin returned to the track as the race leader.
· The second caution flag of the race waved on lap 86. Hamlin reported to the team that he was a little tight and pitted from the lead for four tires and fuel. With a slow stop after having issues on the right side, the Sport Clips team lost three positions on pit road.
· Shortly after returning to green-flag racing, the Auto Club 400 was slowed again for a caution on lap 95. Hamlin pitted from the fifth position for four tires, fuel and a small adjustment. Hamlin restarted the race from fourth, but was shuffled to the middle on the restart and slipped to 12th.
· Running lap times comparable to the top-three cars, Hamlin moved back into the top 10 on lap 117 before making a green-flag pit stop on lap 137. Hamlin pitted for four fires, fuel and an adjustment to help with his tight-handling Camry.
· With less than 50 scheduled laps remaining in the race, the caution waved on lap 153 and Hamlin made another four tire stop, taking on fuel and a wedge adjustment.
· Maintaining his positon in the top seven as the remaining laps continued to click off, Rogers encouraged Hamlin with his fast lap times and asked that he start saving fuel in case the race concluded without any additional cautions.
· After making contact with the wall and causing damage to the right-side fender, Hamlin told Rogers his Camry was really tight. Even with the damage, Hamlin continued to run fast laps before the caution flag was displayed on lap 185. Hamlin pitted and the team changed four tires, added fuel and made adjustments to get the splitter off the ground. Unfortunately, the team was hit with a pit road penalty for an uncontrolled tire forcing Hamlin to start at the back of the field.
· Closing in on the final laps, the caution slowed the field just shy of the white flag on lap 198 with Hamlin scored in 24th place. Hamlin radioed Rogers that he was really tight and needed to be loosened up exiting the turns. Rogers called Hamlin to pit road for fuel and adjustments. The race restarted for the first attempt at a green-white-checker finish with Hamlin at the back of the field.
· Extending the race beyond the scheduled 200 laps, the final caution waved on lap 203.
· When the checked flag waved on lap 209, Hamlin crossed the finish line in the 28th position.
· Brad Keselowski won the race followed by Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman.
Denny Hamlin’s Post-Race Thoughts:
"We were good at the beginning and got off a little bit, but we had a bad restart. I got shuffled back beyond the top-10 and worked our way back to the top-five and then the top-three and then had a penalty. You just can't come back from that. There isn’t anybody in the field with a fast enough car to come back from any penalties. We had one at the inopportune time and it just led to a bad finish and we blew up at the end. That topped everything off."