Phoenix Recap: The FedEx Racing team used excellent strategy and quick pit stops in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway to help get Denny Hamlin into the top-five for the final charge to the checkered flag, and the driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota made a breathtaking, three-wide last lap move to finish third in the 312-mile race won by Carl Edwards. Hamlin lined up fourth for the two-lap, ‘green-white-checkered’ shootout behind Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. Coming off Turn 2 on the white flag lap, Hamlin dove to the inside, cutting off the backstretch dogleg to get position for Turn 3. After clearing Keselowski, Hamlin and Johnson battled side-by-side to the finish line, with Johnson nipping Hamlin by one one-thousandth of a second. Following an engine change Saturday, Hamlin was forced to relinquish his eighth-place qualifying effort to start at the rear of the field at the one-mile desert oval. The 32-year-old Virginia-native picked his way into the top-20 before his first pit stop, and then a series of two-tire stops helped move the #11 machine into the top-10. Hamlin battled a loose race car throughout the event, but it was at its best when it mattered at the end. The finish moved Hamlin up to fourth in the point standings following Phoenix, 18 points behind Johnson after two of 26 regular season races.
Las Vegas Preview: The Series stays out west for Sunday’s visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the third race on the 2013 Sprint Cup Series schedule, where Hamlin is making his eighth-career start at the one-and-a-half-mile track. Hamlin has four top-10 finishes in seven races at Las Vegas, including a career-best third-place run in his second trip to the track in March 2007. Hamlin began his career with three top-10 finishes at the track, with a 10th in his 2006 rookie season, third in 2007 and ninth in 2008. He has completed all but one lap (1,889 of a possible 1,990) at Las Vegas, and finished 20th at the track one year ago.
What does the team need to do to contend for the victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway? “Las Vegas is one place that this FedEx team has run pretty well at over the years, but has never really gotten the results we deserve. It’s a fast track with quite a bit of banking, and it’s hard to get your car just right. It will be the first race for these new cars on an intermediate track, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react when you get around another car. It’ll give us a chance to see how we stack up against some of the other teams early in the season, knowing there are a lot of mile-and-a-half tracks on our schedule. Hopefully we’ll be able to qualify near the front and be there at the end.”