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Hamlin’s Championship Push Thwarted by Overheated Engine

November 18, 2019

Aggressive moves got Denny Hamlin and the FedEx team into a position to compete for the 2019 championship, and an aggressive move also led to that effort falling short Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The No. 11 team finished 10th in the season finale after an overheated engine dropped them from contention.

Hamlin started from the pole and ran up front with his fellow Championship 4 competitors, each taking turns leading laps in the 400-mile race. The FedEx Express Toyota particularly came to life after the sun went down two-thirds of the way through the event.

As temperatures cooled, crew chief Chris Gabehart made the call to put a large piece of tape on the grille during a Stage 3 pit stop to try to produce more speed. But 10 laps into the run, Hamlin’s gauges told him the car was overheating. He was forced to make an unscheduled green-flag stop to pull the tape to cool the engine back down. He returned to the race in 19th and a lap down to the leaders.

Hamlin was able to race his way back onto the lead lap but could not climb higher than 10th before the checkered flag flew. Kyle Busch won the 267-lap race to score his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career championship. The other Championship 4 drivers – Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick – finished the race second and fourth, respectively.

“Obviously, that’s a really disappointing finish to our season,” Hamlin said. “But Chris is an aggressive crew chief, and he’s won us races by being aggressive. It just didn’t work out this time.

“But, I’m so proud of what this FedEx team accomplished this year. We will celebrate that. And I’m looking forward to having the momentum that we took through this year with a first?year crew chief, and we’re going to win a lot next year.”

Hamlin finished fourth in points for the 2019 season.