Kansas Recap: Denny Hamlin drove the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota to a 13th-place finish Sunday at Kansas Speedway and continues to hold third place in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup points standings with four races remaining. Sunday’s event saw a season-high 14 caution flags in the first competition on the new asphalt. A solid qualifying run put the FedEx car ninth on the grid to start the day. Adjusting to the new surface under racing conditions quickly proved to give many teams difficulty. The FedEx crew fought for most of the day to make adjustments and improve the car’s handling. The fortunes for the team turned around when crew chief Darian Grubb seized an opportunity to get back into the race.
Under the eighth caution period, Grubb kept the car on the track as many of the leaders decided to pit on lap 155. The move catapulted the FedEx team to second place, just behind the No. 55 of Mark Martin. On lap 208, Hamlin’s fuel window was closing in and the team was forced to pit again under green flag racing. After receiving four tires and fuel, the FedEx machine was back on the track in 25th place. Unfortunately for the team, a caution shortly after provided the leaders a chance to refuel and negated any fuel window strategy.
Martinsville Preview: The Series heads to Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s 500-lap event on the half-mile ‘paper clip’ in southern Virginia. Undoubtedly one of Hamlin’s best tracks, the Virginia native owns four Cup Series victories in 14 career starts at Martinsville. His 113.4 driver rating at the track is third-best among active drivers, trailing only Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, and he holds an average finish of 6.4. Hamlin has led laps in 10 of 14 Martinsville starts, including each of the last seven races and 1,127 in his career. In the spring event at Martinsville, Hamlin started third and finished sixth, leading 31 laps in the race won by Ryan Newman. Hamlin’s first victory at Martinsville came in March 2008, followed by three-consecutive wins at the track in the fall event in 2009 and a season sweep in 2010. He has also captured two Martinsville poles.
Can you contend for the victory this weekend at Martinsville? “This year — the spring race is the one race where we did just not run well. We had some setup issues that we found in the car afterwards, after the race was over — some mistakes that we made with our setup. Basically, putting the wrong pieces in the wrong places. So, that is hopefully why we ran so bad in the spring where we finished decent but not great. And so hopefully that’s rectified. Honestly, we look forward to going back. Especially, as good as our short track program’s been here in the last few races — between New Hampshire and Richmond — that don’t necessarily correlate, but still it drives like a short track.”