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Hamlin Brings Home Fifth in 500th Start

October 7, 2019

Denny Hamlin recorded his 15th top-five finish of the season on Sunday with a fifth-place finish at Dover International Speedway in his 500th career start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

After starting from the pole position, Hamlin kept the #11 FedEx machine up front throughout most of Stage 1, only relinquishing the lead in order to visit pit road for his first green-flag pit stop. Following the round of stops, Hamlin returned to the top spot, eventually taking the Stage 1 win, securing a playoff bonus point in the process. 

Leading the field to the green for Stage 2, Hamlin showed the way again, until pitting with 54 laps remaining in the segment. Hamlin assumed the top spot following the scheduled stops, however, the FedEx car was beginning to develop a tight condition as the segment progressed. As the laps wound down, Hamlin got trapped behind a lapped car and Martin Truex Jr. passed the #11 with 10 laps remaining in the Stage. 

Hamlin started the final segment next to Kyle Larson and tried to keep up with Larson, but the evolving tight condition returned to the FedEx car. A lack of cautions hampered crew chief Chris Gabehart’s ability to dial in enough adjustment to give Hamlin the handling he needed, and the FedEx car eventually faded to fifth by the time the checkered flag waved. Hamlin led the most laps, with 218, but Larson went on to score his first victory of the season. 

“We had the best FedEx Toyota I’ve ever had at Dover.” said Hamlin. “I was as comfortable as I’ve ever been here, and we showed that for the first half of the race. We just got put in a bad situation with some lapped traffic at the end of the second Stage and I lost the lead. There were no cautions to pick up the rubber and we just got tight. Once we lost the lead – lost the clean air – it was so difficult to pass. I needed to be up front with as tight as my car was. Top-five, at this track, I’ll take it every week.” 

Hamlin now sits second in the playoff standings, 15 points behind Martin Truex Jr. The next race is Sunday, Oct. 13 at Talladega Superspeedway.