Race Report: MichiganAugust 19, 2014
Denny Hamlin drove the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota to a hard-earned seventh place finish in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway's lightning fast two-mile oval to clinch a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Series point leader Jeff Gordon was the race winner, followed by Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano.
"It was a good day for us," said Hamlin. "Proud of the job that the entire FedEx Freight team -- Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and Mike (Wheeler, interim crew chief) -- did this weekend. I really loved my car -- especially at the end of the race, once we got track position. Strategy got us up there. I picked cars off one by one. We had a great handling car."
Hamlin started 21st and was up to 14th by lap 50 of the scheduled 200 lap race. He reported his car was a rocket in the turns and smart pit calls by Mike Wheeler kept the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry moving forward throughout the race that featured eight caution flags. On lap 168 Hamlin made a green flag stop from 11th place and caught a break when the caution came out while on pit road. Restarting seventh, Hamlin ran as high as fifth over the final 23 laps while engaging in a spirited battle for position with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer, before falling into their clutches and taking the checkered flag seventh.
"I thought we just put a great package together," he said. "The track conditions came to us a little bit throughout the day. Overall, I was extremely happy with the handling of the car. It’s been a long time since we've really been this competitive at this track."
The finish secured Hamlin and the #11 FedEx team a place in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Chase begins at Chicagoland Speedway after three more regular season rounds. Hamlin is currently 20th in points, 227 behind leader Jeff Gordon and seeded ninth in the 2014 Chase Grid after 23 of 26 regular season races.
The Series returns to action on Saturday, August 23, at Bristol (TN) Motor Speedway.