The 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup: Direct from Denny Hamlin
Stay up-to-date with Denny Hamlin as he leads the #11 FedEx Racing Team through the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
November 30, 2016
It’s certainly disappointing any time you’re eliminated from the Chase playoffs, but after getting to the final eight at Phoenix and being so close, it’s tough for our FedEx team. We gambled on some strategy late in the race to try to put ourselves in position to advance, and unfortunately, it did not work out. To win the Chase, you need to be great. We were good in this year’s Chase, just not great.
Although we did not accomplish our ultimate goal of winning this year’s championship, it was still a great season for our #11 team. Winning the Daytona 500 to start the season was an amazing accomplishment, and one that I’ll never forget. We also won our first road course race at Watkins Glen, and followed that up with another win at my home track in Richmond.
Thank you to all the FedEx Team Members and FedEx Racing fans for your support throughout the season. It was another successful year for our #11 team and I’m excited to rest a bit during the offseason and come back to Daytona next year and defend our win in the ‘Great American Race.’
Our FedEx Racing Team heads to Phoenix this weekend with a chance at competing for the Sprint Cup Series championship. The points race is close, and Phoenix will be a pressure-packed race, but I like pressure.
Phoenix has been a good track for our 11 team. It’s a short, flat track, much like Richmond, and I’m eager to see if we can go there to replicate the success we had on those configurations this weekend. I know Wheels (crew chief Mike Wheeler) and the crew will bring a fast FedEx Toyota, and I’ll race as hard as I can to put us in the Championship 4.
Texas was a decent race for the team. We struggled mightily on Friday and Saturday, and I thought a top-10 would be a tall task. The rain and the night racing conditions changed handling a bit in our favor, and despite a lack of track position throughout the night, we were able to finish ninth. It was a great day for our Joe Gibbs Racing organization with Carl (Edwards) winning the race.
Here’s to hoping we can come from behind again this weekend to advance in the Chase!
Anytime this FedEx team heads to Martinsville, our expectation is to win. Although we fell short of that goal on Sunday, a third place finish is a good start for us in the Round of 8 in the Chase.
Sunday’s race, I think, was as good as it gets at Martinsville. The warmer temperatures allowed the racing groove to widen a bit, and as you saw, provided some good side-by-side racing.
In the end, we didn’t have enough to hold off the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car. We made our last pit stop — and changes to the car — during a green flag pit stop, and after that last caution flew, didn’t have what we needed for the final restart. Typically, there would’ve been a late-race caution to give us a chance to get tires and another adjustment, but that didn’t happen.
Texas Motor Speedway this weekend will provide another challenge for us as a team. With every position on the track so important, and every point mattering (as we saw at Talladega), there will not be a lot of give and certainly a lot of take in the next two races. We’ll have to avoid mistakes on pit road to maintain track position, and hopefully we can lock ourselves in with a win.
Thanks for watching.
We advanced to the Round of 8 in the Chase and I could not be more proud of this entire #11 FedEx team for facing and overcoming adversity at Talladega.
It was a unique race and unique Chase situation for a lot of drivers and teams. The race did not have the big crashes that we typically see at restrictor-plate tracks, but our chances improved once some of the other Chase contenders suffered blown motors. I have dealt with that during this Chase, and unfortunately, it’s part of racing.
I told Wheels (crew chief Mike Wheeler) and Chris (Lambert, spotter) that I did not want points updates throughout the race. I wanted to focus on the task at hand, which was finishing as best we could, and let the chips fall how they may. Fortunately for us, we advanced via a tiebreaker, giving us a new lease on life these next three races.
I couldn’t be more confident heading to Martinsville this weekend. It’s a track that, as a team, we have had a lot of success at over the years. Being a native Virginian, it’s special to me to go to such an historic track in my home state with a chance to put the FedEx team in the Championship 4 in Homestead.
That will be our only focus this weekend — be the first to see the checkered flag.
Enjoy the races!
It was another tough day for our FedEx team in Kansas. At this level, you need all of the pieces of the team to work flawlessly to win races and run up front, and unfortunately, we fell short of that on Sunday.
We are by no means out of this year’s Chase, but we have our work cut out for us this weekend at Talladega. It will be a nervous week for everyone not locked into the next round, and as we saw last year, anything can happen.
I am very confident in our organization’s restrictor-plate package. We had had a lot of success with it over the last few years, including a win at Talladega in 2014 and of course this year’s Daytona 500. Hopefully we can get some help from our teammates to run up front and challenge for the win on Sunday.
I almost prefer knowing that we have to go to Talladega and win the race. I have been a bit guilty in the past of “scoreboard watching,” and racing a little defensively in these situations. This weekend, I’ll be able to hang it all on the line to get this #11 FedEx Toyota team into the Round of 8.
Thank you for the support!
In order to advance in this Chase format, it’s more important to avoid disastrous finishes than to string along great ones, especially in the early rounds. Unfortunately, a great race for us in Charlotte went south when our engine blew with just 26 laps to go.
I thought we were a top-three car throughout the day, along with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 24 (Chase Elliott) cars. We were biding our time getting ready for the last pit stop when, without warning, I felt the motor let go. It was a very disappointing end to a good run for our FedEx team.
With the 30th-place finish, our mindset now is that we have to win one of these next two races to advance to the round of eight. We had had some ups and downs in Kansas over the last few years, but we finished second in the Chase race there a year ago. I’m confident we can put together another strong run this weekend. Following Kansas is Talladega. Although restrictor plate racing is unpredictable, I know that we have a strong package to bring there and should be in contention to win the race.
Although we are down right now, we are not out. Many other Chase competitors also had misfortune at Charlotte, and that’s who we’ll need to beat to advance.
Thank you all for the support and words of encouragement through the year and especially during the Chase. I saw some of the messages you left on our pit road banner at Charlotte. To view those messages, follow the link: http://www.fedex.com/us/sports/fedexracing/pitWall2016/index.html.
We’re still in this!
We did it: our team is on to the Round of 12 in the Chase playoff after finishing ninth at Dover.
Dover hasn’t been one of my best tracks, so the plan was to stay in the Top 10 throughout the race since we could clinch a spot with a 13th place or better finish. Everything worked out well for us on the track and in the pits, and we were really happy to advance.
Next it’s on to Charlotte Motor Speedway, and I can’t wait. Not only is Charlotte home for me, it’s a track that we’ve had some success at and the guys on the FedEx team always seem excited to race there.
We started fourth and finished fourth at Charlotte in May, and we were testing a lot of stuff during that weekend since we were already in the Chase. We learned a lot about our car, and we’re coming back with a notebook full of how the changing track conditions and our adjustments worked out. All we need to do is pick up a few positions from where we finished in May, and we’ll be in Victory Lane.
It’s important to start this round of the playoffs strong because the elimination race is at Talladega again, a track where anything can happen. And last year that’s just what happened when we had a simple part failure that knocked us out of the Chase.
There’s a lot of really good teams and drivers in this round of the Chase, and as the pressure builds, so will the action on the track. But if you can win, it takes the pressure off you and your team. While we’re always trying to win every race, the intensity is even greater at this point in the season for everyone involved, but my team and I are up for it.
We started off the weekend in pretty good shape at New Hampshire by qualifying fifth in the FedEx Freight Toyota. While I didn’t feel like we had a race winning car in practice on Friday, by the end of final practice on Saturday, I felt like we had a car that could win.
When the race started, I knew right off the bat that we had missed the early race chassis setup, the car was really loose and I was hoping we would get some early cautions so we could make some much needed adjustments. The cautions didn’t come and we were forced to ride it out with minimal adjustments throughout the first half of the race.
While were weren’t able to make all the adjustments that I felt like we needed, we were still running in the top-10 and I wanted to keep the leaders in sight so we could have a shot at the end of the race. Everything was headed in that direction until we pitted for two tires with less than 40 laps to go and were penalized for an uncontrolled tire. A penalty that late in the race is really hard to overcome, but another caution came out and we moved up in the running order when some cars in front of us pitted. We lined up 11th and I could see the leaders again, so I knew it was go time.
I pulled down tight on my belts because I knew it was going to be a tough restart. I hate to say it, but I was right, and when the green flag dropped we ended up on the losing end of some beating and banging that went on, and I had to fight hard to salvage a 15th place finish.
The good news is that we ran in the top-10 most of the day and all of my Joe Gibbs Racing teammates led laps and finished in the top-10. There’s a lot of moving pieces that all have to flow in the right direction during these races and as I’ve said before, we have to minimize our mistakes if we’re going to stay in the hunt. I have a lot of confidence in my FedEx team and I know we’ll rebound and be even stronger this week.
We’re seventh in the Chase standings headed to Dover this weekend, which is an elimination race. Dover was a struggle for me for a long time, but I have a lot better feel for that track and our results the past couple of years have shown that. My goal is to start up front, stay up front and keep out of trouble. Dover is a lightning quick track that’s very narrow. Things happen fast there and we need to make sure we stay out of trouble so we advance to the Round of 12. If we can do that, we have a couple of tracks coming up in the next round where we’ve had some success and I’m really looking forward to that.
Do you want to become part of the FedEx team at the track? You can by posting a comment below wishing the #11 FedEx Racing Team good luck during the Chase, and it may be put on our FedEx Racing pit wall banner for the Charlotte race on October 8th. If you are a FedEx team member, you can also submit your good luck messages by following the FedEx Sponsorship Marketing Purple Hub page.
We kicked off the Chase on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, and while we didn’t start off as strong as we did last year by winning, we still had a good run and a solid sixth place finish.
The weekend started on Friday when the folks at Chicagoland Speedway asked me to help unveil a victory monument in Champion’s Park that honored our win from last year. While I was there, I had a chance to check out all of the victory monuments in the park, and it was really cool to see all of the great drivers and teams that are represented.
Friday was supposed to be practice and qualifying for us, but rain moved in and did a number on the schedule, so NASCAR canceled our qualifying session and instead gave us an hour of practice. While we weren’t able to take a shot at the pole, I was okay with that because we were seeded third in the standings and that’s where we would start. The third starting spot also allowed us the third pit stall selection, which gave us a good spot on pit road.
The two practice sessions on Saturday were pretty uneventful, but it gave us a chance to try some setups and an opportunity to size up the competition. I felt pretty good after practice that the FedEx car would be competitive come Sunday. After meeting with the team, I felt like we had a good game plan for the race.
Once the race started, it was back to business, and I was feeling pretty good about how the FedEx car was working. Everything was going well on the track and on pit road. I never could get to the lead, but we were running in the top-five, and I just wanted to keep the leaders in sight.
As the race was winding down, I felt like we were a solid third-place car, and that’s where we were running until the caution came out with four laps to go. “Wheels” (crew chief Mike Wheeler) and I talked over the radio about whether we should pit for tires or stay out. We decided to follow the leaders to pit road if they came. They did, and so did we. A few cars stayed out, and we lined up seventh for the overtime restart. While I figured it would be a longshot to win from there with just two laps to go, I felt like we had a good shot at second or third. When the green flag dropped and we went through Turns 1 and 2, I knew right away that probably wasn’t going to happen. The last set of tires made the car too tight, and I couldn’t drive through the corners fast enough to make up any ground.We finished sixth as Martin Truex Jr. won.
While we didn’t repeat our Chicagoland win, I’m pleased with how we ran and how well my Joe Gibbs Racing teammates ran, including Martin Truex Jr., whose team has an alliance with us.
Now it’s off to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where I’ve won twice. I really like that track, it fits my driving style and with the way we’ve been running lately, I’m really looking forward to that race.
Hello #11 Fans,
To start with, I have some exciting news: do you want to become part of the FedEx team at the track? You can by posting a comment below wishing the #11 FedEx Racing Team good luck during the Chase, and it may be put on our FedEx Racing pit wall banner for the Charlotte race on October 8th. If you are a FedEx team member, you can also submit your good luck messages by following the FedEx Sponsorship Marketing Purple Hub page.
It’s that time of year again: the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship begins this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, and I’m really looking forward to another shot at the title with the #11 FedEx Racing Team.
Last year we started off the Chase with a win at Chicago and that really gave us a lot of confidence. But it was short lived after we ran into a problem with the roof hatch on the car at Talladega and were eliminated after round two of the playoffs. We’ve been working really hard to make sure we’re ready, and our cars are ready to make a strong run at bringing home the Sprint Cup Series trophy.
It’s been a great year so far for our team. We started off by winning the biggest race of the season, the Daytona 500! That all but guaranteed us our 10th Chase berth after the first race of the year. It really took the pressure off and gave us a chance to do some experimenting with our cars and setups. While that probably hurt us a little bit early on, it’s really starting to pay off with a recent streak of top-10 finishes and wins.
Not only did I get my first Daytona 500 victory this year, but I also won my first road course race at Watkins Glen, something I’ve been close to doing, but never could quite close the deal. Winning this past weekend at Richmond International Raceway was really special because it’s my home track. We led a lot of laps and had great pit stops at Richmond, all of which gives me and my team a lot of confidence heading in to the Chase.
My FedEx team and I are excited at starting the first race of the Chase in Chicago on Sunday. I hope we can maintain the momentum we have right now, all the way through to the end. The competition is tougher than ever, and it’s not going to be easy, but the chemistry between myself and crew chief Mike Wheeler is the best I’ve had in my career, and we’re hoping to capitalize on that.
On a personal note, I want to thank each and every one of you for your support. We consider all of you part of the race team that competes each week at the track.
Thanks again for your support, and look for the #11 FedEx car in victory lane!
*Selected comments submitted by Sept. 30th will be placed on a pit wall banner along with your first name, if provided. Please limit the number of characters in your message so we can include as many messages as possible.
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