Hamlin Notches Top-Five Finish Under the Lights at Richmond RacewayApril 23, 2018
Denny Hamlin battled his way to a third-place finish in Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway. Despite handling issues during the race’s first two segments, Hamlin capitalized on quick pit stops by the #11 FedEx Ground team in the final Stage to deliver his fourth consecutive top-five finish in his last four starts at his Virginia home track.
Hamlin started the 300-mile event from the outside lane in fourth and immediately felt something amiss with the handling of his #11 FedEx Ground Toyota. He struggled to maintain his track position, and he slipped back to 14th as the first 100-lap Stage ran caution free.
The #11 FedEx team used the first Stage break to perform major adjustments on the #11 Toyota including multiple rounds of wedge and a drastic air pressure adjustment, and Hamlin felt a slight improvement overall. After restarting 14th, he climbed his way to eighth, but the tight-handling conditions, and he was forced to settle for 11th for the second consecutive caution-free Stage.
The final 200-lap Stage proved to be another long green-flag segment, and the Hamlin continued to work towards finding his rhythm. After making a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 276, Hamlin entered the field’s top 10, and he worked diligently to chase the leaders up ahead. Hamlin capitalized on long-green flag runs to pick off his competitors one by one, and by lap 328, was scored in fifth.
In the race’s final 50 laps, three cautions appeared, giving Hamlin another opportunity to pit. Quick work on pit road by the #11 FedEx crew earned Hamlin three spots, and he lined up second alongside teammate Kyle Busch for the restart with 25 laps to go. He maintained his position until the yellow flag waved with only three laps remaining, sending the 300-mile event into overtime. Hamlin restarted on the outside of the front row for the final moment, but was challenged by Chase Elliott for second, ultimately forcing him to third when the checkered flag waved.
“The car drove really well today, and we we’re obviously competitive,” said Hamlin, a three-time winner at the Virginia short track. “We could afford to find more power, but overall, it was a good race day and our #11 FedEx crew worked really hard to get us where we were today. It may not have been the win we wanted, but I’m optimistic we’ll get there soon.”
Following his third-place finish at Richmond, Hamlin gained two spots in the overall NASCAR standings, moving into sixth place. The Series returns to action next Sunday, April 29, at Talladega Superspeedway.