Story By: SHARI SPIEWAK / JOE GIBBS RACING – HUNTERSVILLE, NC – Denny Hamlin will compete in his third Championship 4 as he works toward his first NASCAR Cup Series title on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
The FedEx Racing driver is the defending winner of the fall Phoenix race and owns career totals of two wins, and 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes at the one-mile oval in the Arizona desert.
He’ll look to top his seven wins on the 2020 season with the ultimate prize – the Cup trophy – with his team and long-time sponsor FedEx.
Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team earned a berth in the Championship 4 with an 11th-place finish Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Hamlin had a strong FedEx Shipathon Toyota for the early part of the race, winning Stage 1 and leading 42 laps spanning the first two stages.
But the event turned into a nail-biter for the team in Stage 3 when their front-running car showed some vulnerability. Before the first green flag of the final stage, Hamlin had to return to pit road to get loose lug nuts tightened, forcing him to the back of the field.
The car also lost some of its nimble handling as the sun set and the track cooled in the third stage, making it more difficult to climb back up the leaderboard.
But crossing the line in 11th was enough to earn a Championship 4 spot along with Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski.
Hamlin Conversation – Phoenix:
How do you see your championship chances at Phoenix?
“I think we can win any given week for sure. The short tracks haven’t been great for us all year, but you just never know. Last year, we went there and nearly lapped the field, so who knows how it’s going to turn out. One race, winner take all, you never know.”
Is there any data or experience you can lean on to help your chances of success at Phoenix?
“It’s an entirely different ballgame now. It really is. The aerodynamic package is a lot different for Phoenix. There’re no similarities that you can really draw to it. You just never know. Obviously, we’re going to be ready and we’re going to be prepared and hopefully we’ll go out there and show what we’ve got.”