Hamlin Finishes 16th in KentuckyJuly 15, 2018
Denny Hamlin overcame a tight-handling #11 FedEx Office Toyota and early brake troubles to finish 16th in Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway won by Martin Truex Jr.
Hamlin lined up 36th to take the green flag for Saturday night’s 400-mile event after the team did not make it through pre-qualifying inspection in time to attempt a qualifying lap during Friday night’s qualifying session. He wasted no time working to advance his position though and gained 10 spots in just two circuits around the 1.5-mile oval. Hamlin quickly encountered trouble though, and on lap 23, he radioed to the team that he lost all brake function.
As the remaining laps in the first Stage ticked, no caution appeared, and Hamlin managed to wheel the #11 FedEx Office Toyota to a 13th-place Stage finish. The FedEx Racing team took advantage of the break between the first two 80-lap Stages to assess the brake issues, and after some minor front-end repairs, Hamlin was back on track to restart Stage 2 from 20th, ultimately finishing it 16th.
For the final Stage, Hamlin received four fresh tires and fuel to put him 13th for the restart, and he continued in that position as Crew Chief Mike Wheeler called him to pit road for a green-flag stop on lap 208. Just as the crew prepared to service the #11, the caution came out which caused Hamlin to fall a lap down to the leaders. He took the wave around to restart at the tail end of the longest line in 25th, ultimately battling his way back to 16th before the checkered-flag waved.
"We unfortunately ran into handling and brake issues early on in the race which prevented us from getting to the front,” said Hamlin. "Still, we were able to make up good track position after having to start 36th. We learned a lot we can apply for the next time, but now we focus our efforts on New Hampshire where we know we can contend for win.”
Hamlin remains ninth in the overall NASCAR point standings following his 16th-place finish at Kentucky. The Series returns to action next Sunday, July 22, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where Hamlin captured his last Cup Series victory in July 2017.