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Hamlin Survives Talladega Carnage to Finish Sixth

October 16, 2017

Denny Hamlin finished sixth in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, narrowly avoiding multiple wrecks throughout the final Stage of the race to capture his 18th top-10 of the 2017 season in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota.  

The race’s final 78-lap Stage was plagued with multi-car accidents that resulted in six cautions as the laps ticked away. With 16 laps remaining in the 188-lap event, Talladega’s infamous “Big One” erupted directly in front of Hamlin, but he was able to maneuver directly through the 16-car wreckage completely unscathed.

In the remaining 10 laps at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, Hamlin narrowly avoided two more multi-car incidents directly ahead of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota. Surviving the race’s mass carnage in the last Stage, Hamlin lined up fourth for the event’s final green-white-checkered restart. He jockeyed for position across every lane but found it hard to hold onto a steady run in the draft, and Hamlin crossed the start/finish line in sixth.

“Our FedEx Toyota team really did a good job all weekend,” said Hamlin. “The three big wrecks that happened, they all started in front of us and somehow we got through every time which was quite amazing. It was good day overall, but I always want to win, and I wish I would’ve pushed him (Newman) a little bit further at the end.”

The unpredictability of Talladega’s pack racing was evident as Hamlin’s position fluctuated throughout the 40-car field for the race’s first two 55-lap Stages. Hamlin started Sunday’s 500-mile race in 15th, falling as far back as 24th before shimmying his way into the preferred line of the three-wide draft pack to spend the majority of the first segment within the top 10.

After coming to pit road for four tires and fuel during the Stage 1 break, Hamlin took over an early lead in the race’s second Stage, showing the way for three laps before his scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 66. Once stops cycled through Hamlin was scored seventh, but by lap 77, he was reporting a loose rear wheel that forced him to pit road.

The unscheduled stop occurred simultaneously with a caution for debris, allowing Hamlin to stay on the lead lap and gain valuable track position as the leaders came to pit road. He restarted 14th with 23 laps remaining in the Stage 2 end, rallying to a 10th-place Stage 2 finish to collect one bonus Championship point.    

Leading into next Sunday’s NASCAR Playoffs cut-off race, Hamlin remains fifth in the overall Playoffs standings. The Series returns to action next Sunday, October 22nd, at Kansas Speedway where only eight of the remaining 12 Playoff drivers will move on to compete for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.