HAMLIN'S STRATEGY NETS 3RD PLACE BRICKYARD FINISH
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2008 7:43 am
Topic: DRIVER AND TEAM NEWS
INDIANAPOLIS - Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin benefited from stellar pit strategy to move into position to win Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the end, though, he couldn't hold his lead through a final stop and settled for third in the Allstate 400.
Crew chief Mike Ford's two-tire call on the final three pit stops put Hamlin in the lead on lap 140, a spot he held for 10 laps before the final pit stop. When he pitted for the final time, though, he lost out to eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, who also took two tires but had an edge leaving pit road because he was in the first pit stall.
In the closing laps, Hamlin's left-side tires began to wear and he was unable to challenge the leaders again.
"It just wasn’t meant to be," he said. "We just got off pit road right there on two tires and we just lost a little bit of time right there on pit
road. I don’t know where we lost it, but they made it up.”
He didn't blame Reed Sorenson for the lost pit-road time. Sorenson pulled out of his stop and actually clipped the tire that was being carried around the front of Hamlin's car, sending it bouncing off the wall as a team engineer lunged for and captured it. Hamlin didn't blame that for his lost time, though.
"I think on that last pit stop [Sorenson] cut it a little close for our guys," Hamlin said. "It’s tough to say where we lost time. It could’ve been on exit. It could’ve been on entry. It’s tough to say because we pitted so far down pit road the 48 [of Johnson] probably could’ve sped up once he passed us and once he cleared us. He could’ve gained it there."
Hamlin didn't blame the series of pit stops called because of excessive tire wear for his lack of a win, either. He said that it wasn't difficult to get into a rhythm in the race based on the stops since everyone knew they were coming and that he didn't need to push his car until the final run, anyway.
He just adjusted to the conditions and did the best he could - and came up a little short.
It was that finish, as much as anything, that made the day frustrating for him.
"At the beginning of the day you just have to set your goals and we set it for a top-five finish, but when you’re leading with 10 to go, it’s tough to stomach not winning," he said. "When you come in on pit road first you need to leave first on that last pit stop. That’s what it’s all about - getting out in that clean air. We didn’t get it done.
"We worked hard. Everyone on the whole team worked hard and that’s what it’s all about. Today just wasn’t our day. Hopefully, we’re going to have an opportunity to win this thing in years to come.” - scenedaily.com