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Hamlin Rallies for Third at Bristol

August 23, 2016

Denny Hamlin overcame a mid-race pit road penalty and loose wheel to record a third-place finish in Sunday's rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, rallying back from a two-lap deficit in the 500-lap race won by Kevin Harvick.

The race began as scheduled Saturday night under the threat of approaching storms. Hamlin started second in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota and led the first eight laps before Chase Elliott passed Hamlin who eventually dropped back to fourth before the rains came, stopping the race after 48 laps. The showers would come and go, but NASCAR was forced to delay the race until Sunday.

Hamlin restarted fourth when the race resumed on Sunday and ran among the top-10 for the first half of the 500-lap event. But during a stop under yellow, Hamlin was caught speeding exiting the pits, sending him to the tail end of the field. Following the restart, Hamlin reported that he had a loose wheel, forcing him to pit under green flag conditions, losing two laps in the process.

After some aggressive racing and two well-timed cautions following the penalty and loose wheel, Hamlin was able to take advantage of a wave around and free pass to get back on the lead lap with 110 laps to go. 

With the laps winding down and after battling back from the two lap deficit, Hamlin took the lead for the second time following a caution with 81 laps to go, after crew chief Mike Wheeler called for a two-tire stop while the leaders opted for four tires. Hamlin held off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick for 10 laps before Hamlin's two older tires gave way to Harvick's four fresh tires.

Hamlin lined up second, next to Harvick for the final restart with 52 laps to go. With Harvick choosing the preferred inside line, Hamlin had to dive to the bottom behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who followed Harvick closely. Hamlin searched the top and bottom of the high banks over the final laps, but crossed under the checkers just over two seconds behind Harvick.

“We had a great car,” said Hamlin. “We definitely got it a lot better there at the end and proud that we were able to come back from two laps down and get a good finish out of it, but still a good overall day for our FedEx Express Camry. Just came up a little bit short.”

The third-place finish was Hamlin's eighth top-five of the season and kept him seventh in the current NASCAR standings after 23 of 26 regular season races.

The series returns to action Sunday, August 28 at Michigan International Speedway.