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Hamlin Claims Ninth Place Finish at Talladega

May 4, 2015

Denny Hamlin made his move from fourth with two laps to go in an effort to win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega, but without any teammates to draft with, the odds were stacked against him as the drivers he needed help from used their own drafting partners to their advantage, leaving Hamlin to finish ninth in the event won by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“I was trying to get Ryan Blaney (running third) to back off of Jimmie Johnson (running second) so we could get a run on the leaders, but the message didn’t get to him in time and I had to try and do it on my own,” said Hamlin. “When I pulled out with two laps to go, Kevin Harvick gave the FedEx car a shove that pushed us past Ryan, but Jimmie moved up in front of me and that killed our momentum.”

Hamlin started his day 17th and ran in the top-20 until the FedEx crew was able to make a chassis adjustment during the first caution at lap 18. After the adjustment, the #11 came to life and Hamlin cracked the top-five just prior to a multi-car accident on lap 46 that broke out behind him on the backstretch.

Hamlin raced in the top-15 for the next 50 laps and was up to sixth by the halfway point when he pitted for more adjustments while under caution. The adjustments worked in his favor again and 11 laps later, the FedEx car took the lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr., however it was short lived as one lap later, Earnhardt Jr. used the draft to once again take over the top spot.

Hamlin stayed in the hunt with the laps clicking off and with 20 laps to go was running fourth in line among a 10 car lead pack breakaway. But due to the lack of friendly drafting partners, Hamlin’s last ditch effort came up short, resulting in the ninth place finish, giving him his seventh top-10 finish in his 19th Talladega start.

The finish moves Hamlin up two spots to 10th in the NASCAR standings following Talladega, 113 points behind leader Kevin Harvick after 10 of 26 regular season races. Hamlin’s Martinsville win keeps him seventh in the Chase playoff standings.

The Series returns to action next Saturday night, May 9, at Kansas Speedway.