RACE INFO: Event: Kobalt Tools 400
Date/Time: March 11/12 p.m. PT
2011 winner: Carl Edwards
2011 polesitter: Matt Kenseth
Distance: 267 laps/400.5 miles
Track Length: 1.5 miles
Banking: 20 degrees
Track Shape: D-shaped Oval
EXPRESS NOTES: Phoenix Recap: Denny Hamlin took the lead on a restart with 58 laps remaining Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway and never looked back, guiding the #11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry to victory lane in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Hamlin masterfully circled the one-mile desert oval while conserving fuel for the final 84 laps, and had enough gas to be the first to see the checkered flag, ahead of Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. The win is the 18th for Hamlin in the Sprint Cup Series and the 198th for the #11 in NASCAR history, tying it with the #43 for most victories all-time. Hamlin started 13th in Sunday’s 312-lap event but quickly moved into the top-10. Battling a tight condition at corner exit, Hamlin worked with new crew chief Darian Grubb and the FedEx crew to make a host of changes to the car during pit stops. The 31-year-old Virginia native spent the majority of the race’s midpoint hovering around the top-five as the car started to free up. A series of green flag pit stops near Lap 200 saw Hamlin drive up to second and close the gap on then-leader Harvick. When the caution flew on Lap 248, Hamlin was able to restart alongside Harvick and drove to the lead. One final caution helped Hamlin conserve more fuel, and while others ran out in the closing laps, the #11 machine had enough to cross the finish line first. Hamlin leaves Phoenix as the current NASCAR points leader, six points clear of second-place Greg Biffle after two of 26 regular season races.
Las Vegas Preview: Denny Hamlin is making his seventh career Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. He has four top-10 finishes in six starts at the 1.5-mile oval, including a career-best third-place result in 2007. Last year, Hamlin started from the back of the pack after a post-practice engine change and worked his way to the front for a seventh-place run. He finished 10th as a rookie at Las Vegas in 2010.
Race Series Date Start Finish Laps Led Kobalt Tools 400 Sprint Cup March 6, 2011 17 7 267/267 Shelby American Sprint Cup Feb. 28, 2010 27 19 267/267 Shelby 427 Sprint Cup March 1, 2009 34 22 284/285 UAW-Dodge 400 Sprint Cup March 2, 2008 25 9 267/267 UAW-DiamlerChrysler 400 Nextel Cup March 11, 2007 17 3 267/267 UAW-DiamlerChrysler 400 Nextel Cup March 12, 2006 16 10 270/270 Averages/Totals 23.0 11.7 99.9%
FedEx Office – Closest to Las Vegas Motor Speedway: 2288 S. Nellis Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89104, (702) 431-5076
South Las Vegas Along for the Ride at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: The FedEx Freight service center in South Las Vegas, Nev., will be recognized for its outstanding performance and customer service with its “SLV” code letters on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
HAMLIN CONVERSATION – Las Vegas Motor Speedway: Are you surprised with the early-season success with Darian Grubb after last Sunday’s victory? “Absolutely. (Phoenix was) the first chance that me and him have had to work together in a race situation where he’s going to have to make a lot of adjustments, and needless to say, it was going forward the entire day. It’s still a learning process between me and Darian. The communication has still got a long way to go, and he’s going to have to figure out my measurements and all that stuff of how much he needs to work on the car. But to have the success this early just tells me that once we get things down pat, it’s going to be pretty good.”
What are your expectations at Las Vegas? “I’m going to every track this year expecting to win. We took a car in Phoenix that was off in practice and just worked on it and every time, made it a little bit better. I have faith in these guys on the team to bring fast race cars to the track and compete for the win each week.”