Hamlin Earns Top-Five Under the Lights at Kansas SpeedwayMay 14, 2018
Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx team battled their way to a fifth-place finish in Saturday night's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway won by Kevin Harvick.
Fighting an ill-handling FedEx Toyota throughout most of the race, Hamlin and the team never gave up and used a flurry of late-race cautions to gain track position to notch their fifth top-five of the season.
Hamlin started the 400-mile event sixth and soon reported that the #11 was too tight in the beginning and became too loose as the tires wore. Despite fast pit stops by the FedEx crew, Hamlin couldn't get the car up to speed on restarts and with track position at a premium and a lack of cautions, Hamlin became mired in the field, running outside the top-10 for much of the race.
The FedEx teams big break came when the yellow-flag flew with just 20 laps to go. The caution forced a variety of strategies that saw some of the leaders pit.
Hamlin took advantage of the situation and stayed out, catapulting the FedEx car from ninth in the running order, to fourth.
A multi-car incident on the ensuing restart brought out another caution that forced NASCAR to bring out the red-flag to aid the track clean-up crew. When the race resumed, Hamlin lined up fourth for the final restart and fought hard to maintain the spot over the final nine laps, but Kyle Larson had fresher tires and took advantage of the enhanced grip to pass Hamlin with two laps remaining.
“We had an average FedEx Toyota for most of the race,” said Hamlin. It felt balanced on the short-run and I lost the balance there towards the middle and end of the runs. We optimized our finish. I certainly don't think we had a fifth-place car but we did a good job with track position there at the end and got a good finish out of it.”
Following Saturday's fifth-place finish, Hamlin moved up one spot to seventh in the overall NASCAR standings. The Series returns to action next Saturday, May 19, for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.