Both Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry team and Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&Ms Toyota team had to change engines prior to Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, dropping them back to the rear of the field from their qualifying spots of eighth and fourth, respectively. Hamlin’s engine problems occurred Saturday during practice, but Busch’s problems didn’t surface until the team was warming up the car Sunday morning. This marked the second-straight race that Joe Gibbs Racing teams have had engine problems.
In spite of the setback, Hamlin was able to rebound to a third-place finish behind winner Carl Edwards and runner-up Jimmie Johnson. Busch, on the other hand, was not so lucky, as an early-race spin put him down a lap for much of the race; he came home with a 23rd-place finish. The third JGR team, Matt Kenseth and the No. 20 Husky Tools Toyota, had a consistent day and came home seventh.
“We overachieved a ton today,” said Hamlin in the post-race press conference. “We really just had good pit strategy. The pit crew picked up spots here and there, and you end up on the right lane here or there on each restart and you find yourself in the top 10 and then in the top 5 at the end. A lot of it we got our car better and were at least able to somewhat run with the leaders. But I think we definitely have some work to do. I think we didn't run as good as I hoped, but we finished better than I imagined after about halfway through today's race.”
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series get back on track next weekend, March 7th through 10th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Stay up-to-date with the week’s activities at www.nascar.com and joegibbsracing.com.
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