Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Denny Hamlin Martinsville Tums Fast Relief 500 Preview

Event: TUMS Fast Relief 500
Date/Time: Oct. 24, 2010/1 p.m. EST 
2009 winner: Denny Hamlin 
2009 polesitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 500 laps/263 miles 
Track Length: .526 miles 
Banking: 12 degrees
Track Shape: Oval

Hamlin, FedEx Racing Fourth at Charlotte: On a night when Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team knew there was no room for error in their championship pursuit, the team battled back through the field to claim an impressive fourth-place finish. Hamlin started from the 23rd spot on the grid but was forced deep in the pack early on after a Ryan Newman spin, which caused the #11 to restart 36th on lap six. Despite the early setback, Hamlin and team fought forward through skillful driving and stellar work on pit road.  Hamlin ran in the top-five for the balance of the evening, moving into the top-three by the end of the evening. The result, a best-ever finish for Hamlin at the 1.5-mile track, sees Hamlin head to the friendly confines of Martinsville Speedway this weekend trailing current Chase for the Sprint Cup points leader  Jimmie Johnson by only 41 points.

Hamlin at Martinsville Speedway: This weekend will mark Hamlin’s eleventh career Sprint Cup start at Martinsville Speedway and he returns to southern Virginia as the winner of the past two races at the half-mile track. Earlier this season, Martinsville Speedway provided the backdrop for one of the best finishes and memorable wins of Hamlin’s career. The decision to pit from the lead with less than ten laps remaining appeared to have ended Hamlin’s chances of winning, but the strategy worked and the combination of four fresh tires, Hamlin’s sterling drive, and a well-timed caution put Hamlin in position to claim the win. 

The Virginia native led 172 laps on the day to claim his first win of the 2010 season and a third grandfather clock trophy.  A year ago, Hamlin worked to the front and left perennial Martinsville contender Johnson chasing him, attempting to close the gap over the final 137 laps and though three late-race restarts. However, he could only get as close as the bumper of the #11 as Hamlin fended off the challenge to take the checkered flag. The win marked a second visit to Martinsville Speedway’s Victory Lane for the #11 team. Hamlin led a race-high 296 laps in March of 2009 and, after grabbing the lead from Johnson on lap 456, was well-positioned to claim a second Grandfather clock. However, two consecutive cautions tightened the field and Johnson worked his way to Hamlin’s bumper as the laps counted down. On lap 485, Johnson made contact with Hamlin, forcing the #11 FedEx Freight Camry up the track and allowing the #48 Chevrolet to sneak by on the inside. Hamlin had little recourse but to finish the race in second place. 

In March of 2008 Hamlin led 82 laps and held off a furious charge from Jeff Gordon to claim his sole win of the season. In the fall of 2008, Hamlin and the #11 team fought handling issues but managed an impressive fifth-place finish. In 2007, Hamlin sat on the pole for the spring race and led 125 laps before taking third place and then posted a sixth place finish in the 2007 Chase race.  Hamlin has only finished out of the top-10 once at Martinsville – a 41st place finish in the spring event in 2006.

FedEx Express World Hub Along for the Ride in Martinsville: The #11 FedEx Express Toyota will carry the lettersMEMH on the b-posts this weekend at Martinsville in recognition of the more than 10,000 Air, Ground & Freight Services team members who work at FedEx Express’ largest hub in Memphis, Tenn. Recently, the Memphis World Hub team was recognized by the Institute of Transport Management as the 2010 “Best Global Cargo Hub.” The hub operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and processes approximately 1.6 million shipments each weeknight.

You come back to Martinsville as the two-time defending race winner – what is it about this track that suits you?: “It’s really a combination of things. I have raced here more than I have raced at any other track when you consider total laps. Growing up in Virginia I had the chance to race here in some other series and all that track time definitely gave me a comfort level at Martinsville. That carried over to trucks and Nationwide Series and now to the Cup Series.  I feel really confident at this track and I know we bring great cars – those things together usually lead to success. It’s also a lot of pressure because this is a race we circled as one where we expect to be really competitive.”

What is the key to success at Martinsville?: “It definitely starts with having confidence there. It’s not an easy place to race so you know you are in for a battle. It’s really tight and there is no room for error.  For me it’s always been about braking at Martinsville – that is where I find I have an advantage. You are always searching for grip coming off the turn there but if you can be smooth in and get the car situated on entry, you put yourself in much better position getting back to the throttle. You also have to be very patient. It’s not an easy place to pass so you have to take the oppprtunities when you have them – you don’t want to be in position like I was last year, needing to make up a lot of ground in just a few laps.”

Crew Chief: Mike Ford – Morristown, Tenn.
Car Chief: Chris “Spider” Gillin – Smithtown, NY
Shocks: Tim Sparkman – St. Louis, Mo.
Engineer: Mike Wheeler – Southholt, NY
Tire Specialist: Patrick Mullen – Brick, N.J.
Mechanic: John Furino – Long Island, NY
Mechanic:  Rick Bray – Placerville, Calif.
Hauler Driver: Jerry Hess – Lancaster, Pa.
Hauler Driver: Frank Hodel – Blythe, Calif.
Spotter: Curtis Markham – Fredericksburg, Va.
Front Tire Changer: Jonathan Sherman – Monroe, La.      
Rear Tire Changer: Mike Hicks – Salisbury, N.C.
Rear Tire Carrier: Heath Cherry – Belmont, N.C.
Front Tire Carrier: Brandon Pegram – Statesville, N.C.
Jackman: Nate Bolling – Swanton, Ohio
Motor Specialist: Chris Woodward – Franklin, NH
Gas can: Scott Wood – Liberty, S.C.
Catch Can: John Eicher – London, Ky..
JGR Athletic Director: Michael Lepp – Charlotte, N.C.

- Weber Shandwick Worldwide for FedEx Racing, Press Release

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