Hamlin Finishes 16th at MichiganAugust 14, 2017
Denny Hamlin finished 16th in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, battling an ill-handling #11 FedEx Office Toyota throughout the 200-lap event won by Kyle Larson.
Hamlin started 10th for Sunday’s event, and immediately started fighting a loose race car when the field took the green flag. The FedEx crew took advantage of the mandatory Stage cautions throughout the race to adjust the #11 machine, but the loose condition would come and go throughout the long green flag runs, adding to the difficulty for the team to make the necessary adjustments.
During the Stage 2 break, crew chief Mike Wheeler and Hamlin decided to gamble on an alternate strategy by pitting off sequence from the cars running ahead. The strategy would pay off later in the race allowing Hamlin to show the way as the leaders pitted. But the success of the strategy was contingent upon a caution waving with the FedEx car out front. The caution never came and after leading 16 laps, Hamlin was forced to pit, dropping him back the 15th in the running order.
As the race closed in on the checkered flag, Hamlin was trying to work his way back towards the front, when an ill-timed caution trapped the #11 in 15th. Another caution forced the race to overtime and Hamlin lined up 14th for the final restart, but in the scramble to the checkers, Hamlin found himself forced into the outside groove, causing undesirable racing conditions back to the the checkered flag, resulting in the 16th place finish.
“We were looking for a better result than that today, but even with our best effort, we just couldn’t get the FedEx Office Toyota handling exactly the way we wanted," said Hamlin, a two-time Michigan winner. "We’re rolling the dice a little bit at some of these tracks that aren't a part of the Playoffs, but that plan kind of put us at a disadvantage in the end today.”
Hamlin dropped one spot to sixth in the NASCAR standings following the Michigan race.
The Series returns to action Saturday, August 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway.