Event: Pepsi 400

Date/Time: Oct. 10, 2010/3 p.m. EST
American Muscle

2009 winner: Jimmie Johnson

2009 polesitter: Denny Hamlin

Distance: 200 laps/400 miles

Track Length: 2.0 miles

Banking: 14 degrees

Track Shape: Oval


Hamlin, FedEx Racing Keep Pace at Kansas: Four previous Chase for the Sprint Cup efforts have taught Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing teams some valuable lessons about strategy, patience and overcoming obstacles when it comes to the ten-race shootout. Hamlin, now chasing for the fifth time in his career, pointed to New Hampshire, Dover and Kansas as a three races he absolutely needed to get through unscathed and, even though the FedEx team endured a trying day on their way to a 12th place finish Sunday in the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway, their position in the Chase makes their efforts worthwhile. Hamlin and team head to Auto Club Speedway next weekend sitting second in the Chase standings – trailing leader Jimmie Johnson by only eight points.

Hamlin at Auto Club Speedway: This weekend will mark Hamlin’s tenth-career Cup start at the two-mile track in Fontana and his 181st career Cup Series start. Earlier this spring, despite a fuel strategy that nearly had him in perfect position to challenge for the win, two cut tires over the final 30 laps relegated Hamlin to a bitterly disappointing 29th place finish. Last fall, Hamlin led the field to the green from the pole and then led 21 laps before his day ended agonizingly early. Hamlin, leading on a lap 190 restart, clipped the left rear of his car on Juan Pablo Montoya’s car and spun into the end of the infield pit wall. The wreck ended Hamlin’s afternoon and put a severe dent in his 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship aspirations. In the spring of 2009, Hamlin’s late surge into the top-ten and subsequent sixth-place finish had the team moving up the points list into 15th-place heading to Las Vegas. Hamlin fought an ill-handling car for much of the race but persevered as the FedEx crew worked through myriad changes on pit road. Great pit stops on laps 169 and 209 earned Hamlin places on pit road that set him up in fourth for the final restart on lap 215. As the laps counted down Hamlin could do little to hold the fourth spot and ultimately slipped back to sixth at the checkered flag. In the fall of 2008 Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team registered a best-ever third-place finish at Auto Club to propel them into the 2008 Chase. In the spring of 2008 Hamlin was forced from the rain delayed Monday-afternoon race early when he hit water seeping through the track on lap 15 of the event and was sent sailing into the turn two wall. Despite making considerable repairs, the damage was done and Hamlin was scored in 41st place. In the fall 2007 race a cut tire under caution late in the race spoiled what was otherwise a promising day for the FedEx team and led to a 19th-place finish. In the spring of 2006, Hamlin had a very competitive car and ran as high as third place before handling issues caused him to fade late in the race and take the checkered in 11th. During his rookie campaign, Hamlin posted finishes of sixth and 12th and led 29 laps in the fall edition – the only laps he led until the fall of 2009.

Race Series Date Start Finish Laps (Led)

Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup Fe b. 21, 2009 29 25 248/250 6

Pepsi 500 Sprint Cup Oct. 11, 2009 1 37 195/250 21

Auto Club 500 Sprint Cup Feb. 22, 2009 23 6 250/250

Auto Club 500 Sprint Cup Feb. 25, 2008 12 41 193/250

Pepsi 500 Sprint Cup Aug. 31, 2008 21 3 250/250

Sharp Aquos 500 Nextel Cup Sept. 2, 2007 9 19 249/250

Auto Club 500 Nextel Cup Feb. 25, 2007 17 11 250/250

Sony HD 500 Nextel Cup Sept. 3, 2006 8 6 250/250 29

Auto Club 500 Nextel Cup Feb. 26, 2006 5 12 250/250

Averages/Totals 13.4 18.2 94.9% 56

Auto Club Chassis – JGR 276 and 270: The team will unload JGR 276 at Auto Club this weekend. This car won at Richmond in September. JGR 270, which won at Texas in April, will serve as the backup.

FedEx Office Ohio Market Along for the Ride in Auto Club: The #11 FedEx Office Camry will carry the number 7363 on the B-posts this weekend in recognition of the FedEx Office Ohio market sales team. The Ohio team is being recognized for excellence in customer service and partnership between the sales team and in-store staff.


Kansas was a frustrating race but you remain right in the thick of the Chase – What’s is going to take to beat the 48?: “We definitely wanted to run better at Kansas so that was frustrating for sure but I am not surprised at how tight this Chase is. There is no room for error and we can’t worry about what any of the other teams are doing. This is the time of the year – and we have known this all season and been preparing for it – when you have to be at your absolute best. Every team is bringing their best equipment and it’s all about improving as much or more than the competition. We had a lead coming into the Chase but that was never anything to rely on. Now it’s back to zero and we know what we have to do starting this week in California.”

Last fall you sat on the pole here and had a good race going until the wreck, what did you learn last year?: “Last year was a case of worrying about what the other teams were doing and who was where on the track compared to me. I paid for it because I didn’t worry about my race and I know much better now.”

All signs point to this team being very good here this weekend, how are you feeling ahead of this race?: “We obviously won’t know where we are until we get to the track and practice on Friday but we have improved a ton on these kind of tracks so that gives us some confidence. We were good there last year and good again this spring before cutting a tire, and then we had two good runs at Michigan this summer so we have some success to build on.”


Crew Chief: Mike Ford – Morristown, Tenn.

Car Chief: Chris “Spider” Gillin – Smithtown, NY

Shocks: Tim Sparkman – St. Louis, Mo.

Engineer: Mike Wheeler – Southholt, NY

Tire Specialist: Patrick Mullen – Brick, N.J.

Windshield: Bobby “Spike” Christenson – Spokane, Wash.

Mechanic: Rick Bray – Placerville, Calif.

Hauler Driver: Jerry Hess – Lancaster, Pa.

Mechanic: John Furino – Long Island, NY

Hauler Driver: Frank Hodel – Blythe, Calif.

Spotter: Curtis Markham – Fredericksburg, Va.

Front Tire Changer: Jonathan Sherman – Monroe, La.

Rear Tire Changer: Mike Hicks – Salisbury, N.C.

Rear Tire Carrier: Heath Cherry – Belmont, N.C.

Front Tire Carrier: Brandon Pegram – Statesville, N.C.

Jackman: Nate Bolling – Swanton, Ohio

Motor Specialist: Chris Woodward – Franklin, NH

Gas can: Scott Wood – Liberty, S.C.

Catch Can: John Eicher – London, Ky..

JGR Athletic Director: Michael Lepp – Charlotte, N.C.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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