As the rain threat loomed over the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, Denny Hamlin and his team decided to gamble on what ended up being a strategy call that would take them all the way to the finish. Michael Wheeler, Hamlin’s crew chief, kept his driver out a little longer in case the rain hit and the race were called official. While it didn’t work out for a trip to Victory Lane, the strategy did carry his driver through to a top-five finish.
“Well, I think running long like we did and having fewer stops works when you have a good long-run car,” Hamlin said. “It played out for us at Darlington because we had a car that was extremely good in the long run and we didn’t fall off the ledge, so to speak, at the end of a run. It was the same kind of thing today, so we just optimized all the lap time we could on old tires and chose fewer stops instead.”
Had Kevin Harvick not had such a strong car, Hamlin would’ve had a better opportunity to snag the victory. The strategic plan that was in place put the driver of the No. 11 Toyota two spots ahead of where he may have ended up without it. Hamlin came down pit road to start the plan in the sixth position and in the end, a fourth-place finish was the result.
“As soon as I left pit road he said I was going to have to go 50 laps the first time, so I immediately knew he was going to break it up into two stops instead of three,” Hamlin explained. “I wasn’t surprised at all about it. I was worried about it, a little bit in the second stint because I wasn’t running really fast lap times on new tires.
“I was just worried; you need the lap times to be pretty linear for that strategy to work. We kind of leveled off a little bit, and some of the field leveled off. I was worried a little bit, but I kept seeing it cycle around to where I was in a good position.”
The fourth-place result marks Hamlin’s best finish at Atlanta since 2014.
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His favorite tracks on the circuit include Barber Motorsports Park, Iowa Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, and Bristol Motor Speedway.
During the season, Christian also spends time as a photographer with multiple other outlets shooting Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Minor League & Major League Baseball, and NCAA Football.
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