Hamlin Claims Hometown Victory in OvertimeSeptember 11, 2016
Denny Hamlin led the final 85 laps to claim his third victory of the season in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at his home track of Richmond International Raceway, leading 189 of 407 laps in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the final regular-season race of the year, cementing his spot in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoff.
Hamlin lined up as the leader for the overtime two-lap dash and held off a hard-charging Kyle Larson to the checkers. Prior to the final caution that sent the race to overtime, Hamlin was forced to deal with a host of challengers over the last 85 laps after a red flag, and a flurry of cautions threatened to spoil the FedEx teams chance at victory. The win marks Hamlin's eighth consecutive top-10 finish, a career-best streak for the 35-year-old driver.
“It was a great race for us. I'll tell you our car was really running well,” said Hamlin. “Crew chief Mike Wheeler and the whole group just gave me a great FedEx car tonight. Really got it tuned in there the last half of the race. Just good restarts – finally everything just kind of worked well for us all night, hopefully we're going on another Chase run”
Starting from the pole, Hamlin jumped out to an early lead and would stay on point for the first 50 laps before settling in to third for most of the next 200 laps. Lightning fast stops by the FedEx pit crew kept Hamlin in the hunt, but the #11 was having a problem with forward bite off the corners. The team kept adjusting on the car, finally getting it to Hamlin's liking in time for the run to the checkers.
“This is such a special place for me,” Hamlin said. “I see all the extra Denny Hamlin shirts and hats and everything and it fires me up every time I get here. It's always great to win, but it's really great to win on you own back yard.”
Hamlin made the Chase for the 10th time in his 11th full season driving the #11 machine. With three victories, he enters the playoffs fourth in the standings. The first three-race elimination segment starts next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, where Hamlin won last year.