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Hamlin Out of Chase After Phoenix

November 14, 2016

Denny Hamlin finished seventh in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway and was eliminated from the 2016 Chase playoffs.

Hamlin started fifth and ran most of the first half of the race in the top-five, but with track position at a premium, Hamlin and crew chief Mike Wheeler gambled and stayed out to inherit the lead during a caution period with 51 laps to go. The gamble began to pay dividends until another caution waved for debris four laps later. On the restart, the #11 was trapped on the bottom and cars on fresh tires began their assault on Hamlin, dropping him back to seventh before a spinning car brought out the yellow with just two laps remaining, sending the race to overtime.

With his tank running dry and the race now headed to overtime, Hamlin was forced to pit road for right-side tires and fuel, lining up eighth for a short-lived restart when leader Matt Kenseth spun after contact by another car. Hamlin, now up to seventh for the final restart was unable to make up any ground over the final two lap dash, with Joey Logano first to the checkered flag.

“I knew that when I saw we were the only ones to stayed out, I knew that we had an uphill climb, and I still thought we were okay,” said Hamlin. “We singled out second behind Matt Kenseth on the restart and honestly our lap times cleaned out nice as the run went on. We had that caution and that put me on the bottom on the restart and I just got shuffled from there. We performed well this round, but not great and you need to be great to advance.”

The finish by Hamlin kept him sixth in the NASCAR standings with one race left in the season.

Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch advanced to the Championship 4 of the Chase and will race for the 2016 Championship on Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.