Denny Hamlin Battles Back, Finishes Third at Auto Club SpeedwayMarch 22, 2016
After starting the 2016 season off with a huge victory at the historic Daytona 500, Hamlin and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team made their final stop on the "West Coast Swing" at Auto Club Speedway with the Sport Clips Toyota Camry. Hamlin set the track record in round two of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying on Friday afternoon and claimed a third-place starting position for Sunday’s 200-lap race.
The day got off to a bumpy start for the No. 11 Sport Clips team when Hamlin reported that he couldn’t hear his crew chief, Mike Wheeler, over the in-car radio. While the team worked hard to diagnose the problem, Hamlin made slight contact with the wall and thought it might have affected his tire. Wheeler took no chance and made the call to pit for a four-tire stop on lap 27. While entering pit road, however, the first caution flag was displayed. Although the team thought Hamlin was safe following the stop, NASCAR ordered a pass-thru penalty for Hamlin, taking him from first place to 30th.
Radio issues continued to be a factor throughout the first 48 laps of the race. When the second caution flag was displayed, Wheeler and the No. 11 Sport Clips team took their time on pit road and replaced the radio system inside the car. Hamlin rejoined the field in 30th position and reported that he could finally hear all communication.
Green-flag pit stops began to cycle around lap 85 and Hamlin had worked his way into the top 15. After a quick four-tire stop, however, Hamlin was hit with another penalty; this time, speeding on pit road. Hamlin was scored one lap down and in 28th position.
Shortly after the half way mark, the third caution arose and Hamlin received the "Lucky Dog". After the leaders came to pit road, Wheeler called for four tires and fuel, along with a few adjustments to tighten up the Sport Clips Camry. Back on the lead lap, Hamlin rejoined the field in 21st position.
After another four-tire stop under caution, Hamlin moved his way into the top 10. Before long, the Sport Clips Camry was battling with the leaders from the third position. With 45 to go, another caution flag was displayed and Hamlin told Wheeler that he was a tad too free to run on the top like he needed to do. After new tires, fuel and few more adjustments, Hamlin won the race off of pit road and restarted in third. In the final moments, Hamlin led the field for two laps until the caution flag waved once again on lap 198. Taking four fresh tires, Hamlin rejoined the field as the leader. Unfortunately, Hamlin struggled to get the push he needed from behind on the restart and crossed the finish line in third position.
Denny Hamlin on his Finish at Auto Club:
“We did everything we could today. Third place isn’t what we wanted, but with two penalties, radio challenges and a lot of mistakes on my part early on, I think we did the best we could. On that final restart, Jimmie [Johnson] and [Kevin] Harvick linked on the bottom and there wasn’t really anything we could have done at the point. Overall, today was some great racing on the track. The new package is something we can build on and I can’t wait until we take another chunk of downforce out of these things. You’re going to really see some great racing then. Thanks to Sport Clips for being out here today and routing us on. We’ve got a couple more shots to get them back in victory lane this year and I think we can get it done."
About Sport Clips
Sport Clips Haircuts is headquartered in Georgetown, Texas. It was established in 1993 and started franchising in 1995. The sports-themed haircutting franchise, which specializes in haircuts for men and boys, is ranked by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the "Fastest-Growing Franchises" and in the top 20 in the "Franchise 500." There are currently more than 1,500 Sport Clips stores open in the U.S. and Canada. Sport Clips is the "Official Haircutter" of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), offers veterans preferential pricing on haircuts and franchises, and was named as one of the "Top 50 Franchises for Veterans" by USA Today and one of the "2016 Best for Vets: Franchises" by Military Times. Our "Help A Hero" program has raised almost $4 million to help deployed and hospitalized U.S. service members call home through the VFW's Operation Uplink™ and to provide scholarships for veterans transitioning to a civilian career. Sport Clips is a proud sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing's NASCAR drivers Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards, and partners with numerous NCAA and professional sports teams. To learn more about Sport Clips, visit www.sportclips.com.