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Hamlin Nets Top 3 at Martinsville

October 31, 2016

Denny Hamlin overcame an early race pit road speeding penalty to finish third in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, posting a strong result in the first Chase Round of 8 playoff race in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry at the flat, half-mile Virginia track.

Hamlin lined up as the leader for the final restart on Lap 387 (of 500), but eventually gave way to eventual winner Jimmie Johnson 20 laps later, crossing the finish line behind Johnson and Brad Keselowski to move into second the point standings.

“We just missed the last adjustment once that caution came out,” said Hamlin, who sits six points above the playoff cutline with two races remaining in the Round of 8. “We were too tight down the stretch, and I couldn’t hold off the 48 (Johnson) any longer. It’s a disappointing end to a good day for us, but we have positioned ourselves decently for Texas and Phoenix.”

Hamlin, a five-time Martinsville winner, started eighth and ran among the top-10 throughout the early portion of the race. However, during the first caution on Lap 23, Hamlin pitted for four tires and fuel, but was caught speeding on pit exit and forced to restart at the tail end of the line.

The Virginia native marched through the field, picking off positions on the tight Martinsville ‘paperclip.’ He returned to the top-10 and remained there throughout the 500-lap event. He took the lead for the first time on Lap 356 and led again from 362-408.

The finish propelled Hamlin to second in the Chase standings following Martinsville. Johnson earned a berth in the Championship 4 with the win, and three more spots remain with two races left in the current segment, starting with Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, November 6.