|Denny Hamlin is 8/1 to win at Atlanta.|
#11 FedEx Ground Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing
Race: Folds of Honor/QuikTrip 500
Date/Time: Feb. 28/1 p.m. ET
Distance: 325 laps/500.5 miles
Track Length: 1.5 miles
Track Shape: Quad-oval
Banking: 24 degrees
2015 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Denny’s Daytona: Denny Hamlin made a thrilling last lap charge from fourth to first to win Sunday’s Daytona 500 in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota in the closest finish in the iconic race’s 58-year history, beating Martin Truex Jr. to the line by just 0.01 seconds to capture his first career win in the “Great American Race.” Hamlin was fourth to take the white flag behind leader Matt Kenseth, Truex and Kyle Busch. The outside draft line formed with a head of steam from Kevin Harvick, and Hamlin pulled up on in Turn 2 to block the momentum. The resulting push from Harvick catapulted the #11 FedEx machine forward, as Hamlin charged towards the front. After Hamlin cleared Busch for third on the backstretch, Kenseth moved up to block the #11 in Turn 3. Hamlin dove to the inside of Kenseth, wedging himself between Kenseth and Truex in Turn 4 in a breathtaking and daring move. Hamlin and Truex were side-by-side all the way to the stripe, with the FedEx Toyota barely edging ahead for the win. Hamlin was the dominant car for much of the day in Daytona, leading 95 of 200 laps. However, after sliding his tires coming to pit road on the team’s final stop — forcing new crew chief Mike Wheeler to audible from a two-tire to a four-tire call — Hamlin dropped from the lead to fourth for the race’s final stretch. The win essentially puts Hamlin and the #11 team into the 2016 Chase for the championship, and is the signature win of Hamlin’s 27 career Sprint Cup Series victories. The 35-year-old Virginian has now won a point-paying race at 14 of 23 tracks on the schedule, and his resume now includes a Daytona 500 victory to go along with wins in the Southern 500 at Darlington (2010), Bristol Night Race (2012) and Sprint All-Star Race (2015). The victory also marks the 11th-consecutive season Hamlin has logged at least one win, starting with his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2006.
Champion’s Tour: Hamlin celebrated his Daytona 500 victory with a whirlwind media tour on Monday and Tuesday. He joined team owner Joe Gibbs and the entire #11 crew at Daytona International Speedway Monday morning to see off the race-winning #11 FedEx Express Toyota, which will be on display at the track for the next year. A flight to New York City started a two-day media blitz, with interviews at ‘Live with Kelly & Michael,’ ‘Fox & Friends,’ ‘The Dan Patrick Show,’ The Players’ Tribune, USA Today, SIRIUS-XM and the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., among many others. Hamlin will be in Atlanta on Thursday, February 25 for additional opportunities.
Atlanta Aero: The well-received low downforce aerodynamic package utilized in two races last year will make its debut this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with Hamlin driving the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota. The cars will feature less downforce and drag, and Hamlin will look to record his second-career win at the 1.5-mile oval after winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2012. In 16 career Cup races in Atlanta, Hamlin owns one win and six top-10 finishes, leading 365 laps.
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Average Start: 12.4
Average Finish: 18.1
Laps Led: 365
Have you been able to reflect on Sunday’s win and what it means to you to be a Daytona 500 champion?
“It’s the pinnacle of my career, for sure. We have been close to winning that race so many times, and I have worked hard on becoming a better superspeedway racer. I knew that if we continued to put ourselves in position at the end of the races there, eventually our time would come. It still feels surreal to me how it happened, getting such a push from Kevin (Harvick) and then barely beating the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) to the line. Everyone was trying to key the radio after it was over, so I had no idea until about 30 seconds later that we actually won. I saw my number at the top of the (scoring) pylon, so I was hopeful, but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t a mistake. This is such an amazing feeling for our entire FedEx team, and to share this with Joe (Gibbs) and J.D. (Gibbs) makes it that much more special. I have been with this organization for a long time, and selfishly, I wanted to be the one to end the long Daytona 500 drought for them. Thankfully, we did.”
Western Rockies Along for the Ride in Atlanta: The FedEx Ground Western Rockies district will be recognized for exceptional safety performance with its district code “WROK” on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Western Rockies district extends from its Salt Lake City hub to include most of Idaho, Nevada and Utah.