[media-credit name=”” align=”alignright” width=”199″][/media-credit]RACE INFO: Event: Food City 500

Date/Time: March 18/1:00 p.m. ET

2011 winner: Kyle Busch

American Muscle

2011 polesitter: Carl Edwards

Distance: 500 laps/266.5 miles

Track Length: 0.533 miles

Banking: 36 degrees Track Shape: Oval

EXPRESS NOTES: Las Vegas Recap: Denny Hamlin’s #11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry was a handful in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, lacking overall grip and both tight and loose conditions that resulted in a 20th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hamlin worked with crew chief Darian Grubb on a host of changes throughout the 267-lap event won by Tony Stewart, but could never hit the balance just right, leaving the 1.5-mile oval disappointed following a victory last weekend in Phoenix. Hamlin started 17th but immediately recognized a tight condition in his race car, sliding back to the mid-20s in the early going. Grubb called for rounds of wedge, track bar adjustments and even adding a spring rubber to the right-rear during pit stops, but none seemed to bring the #11 machine to life. Falling one lap down to the leaders with less than 100 laps to go, Grubb was forced to keep Hamlin on-track under caution to benefit from the wave around rule to get his lap back. A caution shortly after allowed Hamlin to pit and start at the tail end of the field, but he could never make up ground. A handful of late-race cautions brought drama, but Stewart held off Jimmie Johnson for the checkered flag, followed by Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards. The finish dropped Hamlin two spots to third in the NASCAR standings following Las Vegas, now 12 points behind leader Biffle after three of 26 regular season races. Kevin Harvick is two points ahead of Hamlin in second.

Bristol Preview: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where Hamlin will make his 13th start on the half-mile bullring in Sunday’s 500-lap event. In the Series’ last trip to Bristol in August 2011, Hamlin finished seventh after starting 20th, which gave him a big boost of confidence heading into the final two races of the regular season — where an eighth-place finish at Atlanta and ninth-place result in Richmond cemented his sixth-straight Chase berth. Hamlin owns six top-10 finishes at the Bristol in 12 races, including a career-best runner-up finish in the spring 2009 race and third-place result in the summer 2008 event. Late-race fuel pickup problems spoiled potential victories in the spring 2007 and 2008 races at Bristol, when Hamlin led 275 of the 1,004 laps but settled for 14th- and sixth-place finishes, respectively.

Race                    Series          Date Start           Finish          Laps              Led Irwin Tools Night Race  Sprint Cup      August 27, 2011 20              7               500/500 Jeff Byrd 500           Sprint Cup      March 20, 2011 25              33              488/500 Irwin Tools Night Race  Sprint Cup      August 21, 2010 17              34              473/500 Food City 500           Sprint Cup      March 21, 2010 15              19              500/500 Sharpie 500             Sprint Cup      August 22, 2009 41              5               500/500 Food City 500           Sprint Cup      March 22, 2009 24              2               503/503         7 Sharpie 500             Sprint Cup      Aug. 23, 2008 21              3               500/500 Food City 500           Sprint Cup      March 16, 2008 12              6               506/506         98 Sharpie 500             Nextel Cup      Aug. 25, 2007 33              14              209/500 Food City 500           Nextel Cup      March 25, 2007 10              14              504/504         177 Sharpie 500             Nextel Cup      Aug. 26, 2006 6               6               500/500 Food City 500           Nextel Cup      March 26, 2006 33              14              500/500 Averages/Totals 21.8            15.5            94.5%           282

FedEx Office – Closest to Bristol Motor Speedway: 2116 North Roan St., Suite 1A, Johnson City, TN 37601, (423) 283-9503

Gateway District Along for the Ride at Bristol Motor Speedway: The FedEx Ground Gateway district will be recognized with its district code “GTWY” on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The district leads the FedEx Ground Central region in safety performance year-to-date and ranks fifth in the company. The Gateway district comprises most of Illinois – including its Champaign hub – and parts of Indiana, Iowa and Missouri.

HAMLIN CONVERSATION – Bristol Motor Speedway: Do you think Bristol owes you a victory after coming so close in the past? “Coming so close before has really only made us want to win one of these Bristol races more than ever.  There is no doubt that winning at Bristol would be special and I know I speak for the entire team when I say leaving here with a trophy is something everyone in racing wants to accomplish in their career. We’ve felt like we’ve had the car on a couple of occasions but had some bad luck in terms of parts going bad at the worst possible times. Twice we ran almost 500 laps around Bristol to get in position to win only to have things go wrong at the very end.  This team regroups and works even harder because we know we can run well at Bristol.”

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