Talladega Recap: Denny Hamlin avoided a last-lap wreck and piloted the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota to a 14th place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. With the result, Hamlin remains third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup points standings, 23 markers behind Brad Keselowski after four of 10 playoff races. The No. 17 of Matt Kenseth crossed the finish line ahead of the pack to claim the checkered flag. Jeff Gordon finished in second place, with Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch finishing third.
David Ragan and Regan Smith rounded out the top five finishers. The FedEx team’s race strategy going into Talladega was to avoid the dangers of the middle of the pack and sit back and wait for a window of opportunity to move up the field. Hamlin started the day 23rd, but moved toward the back of the pack by the first caution flag of the day on lap 17. Biding his time at the back throughout the 188-lap event, Hamlin came to the pits to top-off fuel as a few drivers remained on the track to push their fuel mileage after a caution with six laps remaining. Green flag racing returned for a two-lap fight to the finish. The tight pack shootout that ensued led to a wreck that claimed 25 cars in turns three and four as the field headed to the finish line.
Charlotte Preview: The Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s 500-mile event at the 1.5-mile quad oval. Hamlin is making his 15th career Cup Series start at Charlotte this weekend, owning seven top-10 finishes in 14 previous events, including a runner-up result in this year’s Coca-Cola 600. Starting from the eighth position, Hamlin spent the first half of the race in the back of the top-10. The crew made several adjustments to try to free up the car, and while the handling improved slightly, the team was still looking to gain valuable track position for the final 100 laps of the race. The opportunity presented itself during a caution with 80 laps to go. Crew chief Darian Grubb made the call to keep the car on the track when the majority of lead lap cars headed to pit road for a pair of tires. The decision paid off and sent Hamlin to the front of the pack coming out of the restart. Hamlin would lead twice for a total of 13 laps before giving way to eventual race winner Kasey Kahne.
Mountain District Along for the Ride in Charlotte: The FedEx Ground Mountain district will be recognized for outstanding service quality with its district code “MNTN” on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Mountain district, based out of the Denver hub, encompasses all of Colorado and Wyoming, as well as western Nebraska and northeast Utah.
Heading towards the halfway point of the Chase, where do you put the FedEx team’s chances? “I think our FedEx team is in pretty good shape. Obviously, we gave a few points away at Chicago and Dover, but we’re still in striking distance. We were able to avoid trouble at Talladega and get a decent finish, and I think we have a good shot of competing for the win almost everywhere we go from here on out. We have wins at five of the last six tracks, and finished second at Charlotte earlier this year. Hopefully we can do one spot better than that Saturday night.”