With enough fuel in tank, Denny Hamlin earns fifth straight top-five finish

Daniel McFadin
NBC Sports

The back-half of the Cup Series schedule continues to treat Denny Hamlin well.

With his second-place finish Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned his fifth straight top-five finish.

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The runner-up finish came with help as multiple drivers had to pit for fuel in the closing laps and Hamlin admitted he didn’t have enough speed to chase down winner Kevin Harvick. He still earned his best Michigan finish since 2011.

“We finished. We had enough (fuel), just part of it,” Hamlin said. “Wish we were just a little faster. That last run we were down a little bit on speed to keep up with those guys. I was happy that we were able to keep up, but certainly needed a long, long run for our car to come in. Proud of the FedEx team for making great adjustments from the last time we were here.”

Hamlin finished 11th at Michigan in June, but showed his speed early on Sunday. After starting 14th, he had his No. 11 Toyota in eighth by Lap 10 and in third by Lap 27.

He then chased down and passed race leader Brad Keselowski on Lap 40 and led five laps.

He would lead one more lap while dueling with Martin Truex Jr. before finishing the first stage in second.

Hamlin wouldn’t finish in the top 10 in Stage 2 after a green flag pit stop late in the stage, but was consistently in the top 10 in the final stage.

“It seemed like we definitely had the best handling car when it was really hot and slick, but as the day went on and the track cooled off, the guys that had built more speed into their car, it kind of handicapped it for them,” Hamlin said.  “We were able to hang on to those Fords there at the end, and then just got ‑‑ (Harvick) was trying to save fuel I’m guessing there, (Brad Keselowski) and (Joey Logano) peeled off. But we were right there, just a really fast car. 

“The whole FedEx team did a great job adjusting from the last time we were here.  (Finishing) first and second on these tracks that we’re going back to twice, so (Crew chief) Chris (Gabehart) is doing a great job making those adjustments.”

Hamlin will now take his hot hand to Bristol Motor Speedway where he finished fifth in April. He has one career win in 27 starts on the half-mile track. That came in the 2012 night race.

 

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