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He’s Back: Hamlin Wins at Michigan!

It was a total team effort for Denny Hamlin and No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota crew today at Michigan International Speedway en route to their first win of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Meanwhile, teammate Kyle Busch finished just off the pace in third place and Joey Logano finished 18th.

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Hamlin, crew chief Mike Ford, and the entire No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota team displayed the patience and perseverance that is often required to achieve success on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Hamlin qualified his No. 11 Camry in the 10th position to start the race, but the handle on the car was not quite what he had hoped for once the green flag dropped on the first of the day’s 200 laps. With each stop down pit road, Ford and the FedEx crew would make the necessary adjustments to provide Hamlin the balance he needed to move up through the field and back into the top 10. With each passing lap, the FedEx Camry would get stronger and tremendous pit stops by the No. 11 crew would further assist in Hamlin’s approach to the front of the field. Hamlin was racing in the second position when the day’s final caution came out with just nine laps remaining. With track position essential at this two-mile track the FedEx crew needed to deliver on what would be the final time down pit road for the leaders. Deliver they did. The No. 11 team put together an outstanding two-tire stop that bested the other leaders and allowed Hamlin to restart the race first. Hamlin was able to do the rest from there, getting a great jump on second-place Matt Kenseth and his teammate Kyle Busch and then holding off of both over the few remaining laps. It is Hamlin’s first victory of the 2011 season.

Busch started the No. 18 Snickers Toyota in the 24th position, but it was evident from the drop of the green flag that he would have one of the strongest cars in today’s field. Busch gained eight positions in just the first seven laps of the race and would close to 12th by lap 16. A few laps later he would climb into the top 10 and settle into the top-five by lap 30, taking over third on lap 34. Busch would take his first lead of the day on lap 100 as he battled past Greg Biffle for the top spot. He would hold that lead for the majority of the second half of the race and for a total of 59 laps on the day. Only Biffle would have more laps led on this day. As the race neared its conclusion Busch would find himself in the sixth position on the final restart of the day with just five laps remaining. A great restart would vault him into third and allow him to battle for the top spot, but just couldn’t get past Kenseth and Hamlin and would come home with an impressive third-place finish.

Joey Logano knew Friday afternoon he would have to start the No. The 20 Home Depot Toyota at the back of the field when the green flag was dropped to start today’s race in Michigan following an engine change during the weekend’s second practice session. Despite limited practice time on the often slick two-mile oval, Logano wasted no time in making up much of the lost ground as he climbed into the top 25 by the time the day’s first caution flag flew on lap 7. A solid pit stop by The Home Depot crew kept Logano inside the top 25 and from there the team was able to work on improving the handle of the No. 20 Camry. Logano would slowly continue his climb through the field and would battle inside the top 20 for much of the second half of the race despite battling loose handling conditions. Logano would climb into the top 15 with less 25 remaining and following a final trip down pit road would restart in the 12th position on the day’s final restart. Logano would cross the finish line in the 18th position.

Kenseth was second behind Hamlin, with Busch third, Paul Menard fourth and Carl Edwards in fifth. There were five cautions for a total of 18 laps and 21 lead changes among 12 different drivers over the course of the 200-lap race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads west to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA next Sunday for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Live Coverage on TNT will start at 2 PM ET (race starts at 3 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90.

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