Posted by kryan November - 14 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Denny Hamlin drove the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry to a 12th-place finish in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, the penultimate race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and Round 9 of the Chase for the championship.

Denny Hamlin New Phoenix TrackHamlin attacked the newly-paved and reconfigured one-mile desert oval from the drop of the green flag, working through traffic from his 33rd starting position to climb near the top-20 by the race’s midpoint. A timely caution just past the halfway mark — in the middle of green flag pit stops — allowed the FedEx team to make a stop during the yellow and move to the brink of the top-10.

The 30-year-old Virginian, who sat on the pole in his very-first Phoenix start in 2005, battled a nagging tight condition in the center of the corners which prevented him from challenging for the victory in the 312-lap event won by Kasey Kahne.

“The track kept tightening up as more rubber was laid down,” said Hamlin, following the race. “We were chasing the track in practice on Friday and qualifying on Saturday, and with the rain overnight, it was a whole new ballgame. We just got too tight to make a run late in the race, but we ended up with a decent finish.”

Crew chief Mike Ford called for a variety of wedge and air pressure adjustments throughout the race in hopes of freeing up the #11 machine, but the track’s changing conditions throughout the afternoon made it a difficult task.

The finish kept Hamlin 10th in the Chase standings following Phoenix, as only three points separate leader Carl Edwards and second-place Tony Stewart heading into next Sunday’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.


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