Hamlin Rebounds to Finish Seventh at DoverMay 17, 2016
Denny Hamlin finished seventh in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway after rebounding from two laps down in the race won by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.
Hamlin lined up eighth for the final restart and made quick work of Ryan Blaney and Clint Bowyer, moving up to sixth. Hamlin held that position for the final 35 laps before Brad Keselowski pulled alongside the FedEx machine coming to the checkers, beating Hamlin the line by inches.
“We just have to get better at the little stuff,” said Hamlin. “We have fast cars week in and week out, but we just keep digging holes that are too big to get out of. These races are tough enough to win without mistakes. This FedEx team never gives up and we have some good tracks coming up, so we'll keep working to get better.”
Hamlin started sixth in the #11 FedEx Office Toyota and moved up to fourth early on, but the handling started to go away and Hamlin fell back to 12th when a vibration developed and sending him to the pits a few laps prior to his scheduled stop. While driving down pit road, the caution came out trapping the FedEx car one lap down in the process.
Hamlin spent the next 50 laps trying to earn the free pass, finally getting the break he needed when the caution waved at lap 174. Back on the lead lap--but at the tail end--gave crew chief Mike Wheeler the opportunity to pit off sequence when the caution flew a handful of laps later.
The strategy worked in favor of the FedEx team when the caution came back out just seven laps later. Hamlin stayed out and inherited the lead after all the cars ahead hit pit road for service. Hamlin led the next 15 laps before cars with fresher tires dropped the FedEx car back to 11th.
Hamlin needed a caution for the pit strategy to pay off, but the caution didn't come, forcing the #11 to pit under green, going two laps down for the second time in the process. Adding insult to injury, the caution would fly just 11 laps later, trapping Hamlin two laps down to the leaders.
A few well timed cautions gave Hamlin the opportunity to take advantage of the free pass twice, allowing him to get back on the lead lap. During one of the final restarts, a multi-car accident unfolded in front of Hamlin and the FedEx car sustained superficial body damage. Hamlin was able to continue, allowing him to bring home the hard fought seventh place finish.
Hamlin maintained 13th position in the NASCAR standings, 110 points behind leader Kevin Harvick after 12 of 26 regular season races.
NASCAR returns to action on Saturday, May 21 for the Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.