Denny Hamlin , driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing , had successful surgery on his right knee this afternoon. Hamlin , who tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament while playing basketball in early September, is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2016 NASCAR season in February at Daytona International Speedway . The surgery was previously scheduled and was done by OrthoCarolina's Dr. Patrick Connor. The injury did not force Hamlin to miss time, and he finished ninth overall in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Team officials say Hamlin ’s status for this week’s Champion’s Week festivities is uncertain at this time.
RELATED: Full lineup HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Denny Hamlin stole the thunder from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' four Championship Round drivers, winning the pole for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC). Outrunning Joey Logano and championship-eligible teammate Kyle Busch for the top starting spot, Hamlin toured the 1.5-mile speedway in 30.568 seconds (176.655 mph) in the third and final round of Friday's knockout time trials. Logano (176.263 mph) will start beside Hamlin in the season finale, followed by Busch, the highest qualifier among the drivers competing for the series title. Chasers Jeff Gordon (175.291 mph) and Martin Truex Jr . (174.498 mph) will start fifth and 11th, respectively, with defending champion Kevin Harvick taking the green from the 13th starting spot. Given the focus on the four contenders, Hamlin introduced himself as "Mr. Irrelevant" when he took the podium for the pole winner's press conference. But he did relish the prospect of winning what will be Jeff Gordon 's last race in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. "Sitting back here and watching Jeff talk and everything, it's like, man, you know, I thought about it before, but I didn't think about like how awesome it would be to win his final race," said Hamlin , who won his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Homestead and the 23rd of his career. "No disrespect to him, but, man, that would be awesome to win his final race. I hope he finishes third behind Kyle." Harvick posted the fastest lap of the day (177.848 mph) in the opening round, but his fortunes and those of Gordon moved in opposite directions for the remainder of the session. Without benefit of a mock qualifying run in opening practice, Gordon slipped outside the top 24 on his first qualifying attempt but recovered to advance to the second round with a 17th-place effort on his second run. Gordon was sixth fastest in the second round to advance to the final session. "That was disappointing, and I think that really affected me, that first run," Gordon said. "I just didn't push the car hard enough, didn't realize how much more grip was going to be out there compared to practice, and I just wasn't aggressive enough. The car was fine. The car was good. I just needed to go faster mainly through (Turns) 1 and 2. "I really did not think we could go faster than that. I didn't think the tires would have it in them. The fact that we were able to advance to the second round was huge. Kind of got me motivated and pumped up after that, and we made some adjustments, some big adjustments on the car, which we felt like we needed to do as you advance through the round and get the tires hot and air pressures start changing you know you've got to adjust the balance. "The team did an excellent, excellent job of that in those last couple laps. That last one could have been a tiny bit better, but knowing that we had one extra lap on the tires, I'm very, very proud and happy with that run." Harvick, on the other hand, failed to crack the top 12 in the second round by .002 seconds and will start deepest in the field of all the Chase drivers. "Yeah, round one was really good for us, and then we went to round two and just really, really tight in the next two runs that we made," Harvick said. "We just never really recovered from what we did in the first round to make it repeat. "All in all, I just think our balance was too tight. We'll work on the race car and go from there." Note: Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field.
RELATED: Harvick on JGR: 'We're going to pound them' MORE: Full race results " Race recap " Final standings for 2015 After Kyle Busch hoisted his new 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion trophy over his head, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin took to Twitter to remind last year's champ, Kevin Harvick , of his prediction for the 2015 Chase. Way to go @KyleBusch . Way to "pound em into the ground" #champs — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) November 23, 2015 For a refresher, Harvick's exact quote from Chase Media Day in September was: "I wouldn't consider us behind the Gibbs cars. I've raced against the Gibbs cars. I think we're going to pound them into the ground, that's what I think. Hopefully they can beat themselves."
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated series standings DARLINGTON, S.C. -- You could call polesitter Denny Hamlin 's victory in Saturday's VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway "dominating," but the NASCAR XFINITY Series event wasn't without its share of drama -- courtesy of a fuel shortage and Hamlin's own Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Daniel Suarez . Hamlin Led 117 of 147 laps at the 1.366-mile speedway, but he didn't make the winning pass until Lap 145, when he surged past Suarez, who was stretching fuel after foregoing a final pit stop in hopes of stealing the victory. The win was Hamlin's third of the season (all from the pole), his fourth at Darlington (all from the pole) and the 14th of his career. In a 1-2-3 finish for JGR, Kyle Busch got past Suarez, who finished third, to start the final circuit and came home in the runner-up position. But Suarez secured a $100,000 bonus as the top finisher among eligible series regulars in the final XFINITY Dash 4 Cash event of the season. Suarez also won $100,000 for Kurt Kolstad, a race fan paired with Suarez for the Dash 4 Cash finale. When Hamlin brought his No. 20 Toyota to pit road under caution on Lap 72, he returned to the track after a lightning fast stop during which his team left the fuel cell slightly short of a full load. That meant Hamlin would have to pit before his primary pursuers, Busch and Kevin Harvick , and hope the race would run caution-free for the entire cycle of stops. Hamlin got his wish. After pitting on Lap 122 and gaining time on fresh tires, a relieved Hamlin saw the race run caution-free to the end, giving him just enough time to catch Suarez, who was saving fuel on old rubber, before the laps ran out. "I'm almost glad we didn't (get the car full of fuel)," Hamlin said after the race. "We didn't want a caution to fall and trap us there, but I had scraped the wall and kind of misjudged my line one time and got a little right-side damage, and the car just stopped turning. "I don't know if the right side would have made it or not (under the pressure of all-out racing)." Harvick led 16 laps and finished fourth, his chances thwarted when the race ran green to the finish. "The 9 ( Chase Elliott ) hit the wall or was blowing up or something, and we stayed out a few extra laps, thinking that the caution was going to come out, and got a little bit behind," Harvick said. "The 20 ( Hamlin ) had the best car. We were better in the long run -- we could run him back down and race with him, but on the short run, those guys were a little bit better than we were." Chris Buescher ran fifth and extended his series lead to 29 points over Ty Dillon , who finished 15th, and 35 over Elliott, who came home 24th, three laps down, after his engine soured late in the race. Joey Logano , Kyle Larson , Landon Cassill , Regan Smith and Ross Chastain completed the top 10.
Watch as Denny Hamlin wins the first race of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
When we started the All Pit Road Team four years ago we wanted to make it as legitimate as possible. We wanted pit crew members to vote on who they thought were the best of the best. This year we changed it up and only members of the 16 Chase pit crews were eligible for the awards. We had the best turnout in voting since we started. We had over 1,730 total votes cast among all the positions. The position votes were as tight as they've ever been. Congratulations to everyone who won. Front Tire Changer First Team: No. 19 Clay Robinson (40) Second Team: No. 11 Dustin Necaise (33) Third Team: No. 48 Cam Waugh (26) Honorable Mention: No. 41 Shane Pipala (21) Front Tire Carrier First Team: No. 22 Dylan Dowell (32) Second Team: No. 19 Kevin Harris (30) Third Team: No. 2 Jeremy Ogles (23) Honorable Mention: No. 20 Joe Crossen (19) Jackman First Team: No. 11 Nate Bolling (36) Second Team: No. 22 Ray Gallahan (29) Third Team: No. 2 Braxton Brannon (28) Honorable Mention: No. 19 Trey Burklin (22) Rear Changer First Team: No. 11 Mike Hicks (48) Second Team: No. 18 Jake Seminara (26) Third Team: No. 4 Daniel Smith (25) Honorable Mention: No. 22 Zach Price (23) Rear Tire Carrier First Team: No. 19 Matt Ver Meer (34) Second Team: No. 11 Heath Cherry (30) Third Team: No. 18 Kenny Barber (24) Honorable Mention: No. 4 Mike Morneau (23) Gasmen First Team: No. 22 Kellen Mills (28) Second Team: No. 4 Justin White (27) Third Team: No. 11 Caleb Hurd (25) Honorable Mention: No. 48 Brandon Harder (23) Coach Trent Cherry: Team Penske (30) Mike Lepp: JGR (24) Joe Piette: SHR (22) Crew -- voted on by crewmen Denny Hamlin , JGR No. 11 Crew -- voted on by crew chiefs (Mechanix Wear Award) Kurt Busch , SHR No. 41 For more pit crew news, go to PitTalks.com .
RELATED: NASCAR suspends Kenseth " Drivers react to ruling Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin , a teammate of Matt Kenseth , said Tuesday night on FS1's "Race Hub" that Kenseth was upholding the "driver code" when he tangled with Joey Logano on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway . The penalty of a two-race suspension -- which NASCAR handed out to Kenseth on Tuesday -- was therefore too harsh, Hamlin said. "There's an unspoken driver code," Hamlin said. "We talk about this a lot. A lot of fans don't understand what driver code is, (but) any race car driver that has been doing this long enough understands what driver code is. I feel like the driver code that's been established for -- since racing began, 100 years ago -- that driver code is more compromised now than ever. "NASCAR said in years past -- they said this year -- that they like the drivers to police themselves. Matt was policing himself and he was policing the driver code, in my opinion." NASCAR on Tuesday suspended Kenseth for two races following Sunday's on-track incident in which Kenseth, multiple laps down at the time, drove Logano, leading at the time, into the fence with less than 50 laps remaining. Joe Gibbs Racing announced it would appeal the penalty. NASCAR announced it would expedite the appeals process. Still, the ruling didn't sit well with the driver of the No. 11 Toyota. "You know, they digest a lot," Hamlin said of NASCAR. "And they are the parent figure within our organization and tell us what the rules are. We try to play by them every week. Sometimes those rules are gray."
RELATED: Talladega race recap " Full results Part of the roof of Denny Hamlin 's No. 11 Toyota started to break off midway through Sunday's CampingWorld.com 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway , forcing the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to pit road to fix the issue. Hamlin took his Camry to pit road on Lap 88 after NASCAR told the team to bring the car in because his roof hatch was coming off, but in an effort to make a quick adjustment and not lose a lap, the fix was not secure enough and he had to come back in. Roof hatches are not used in all races. They are installed at superspeedways as a safety measure to give drivers an alternate exit from the car. Because the issue took Hamlin off the lead lap, it hindered Hamlin's chances of continuing on in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The JGR driver recuperated to get back on the lead lap, but was caught up in a wreck on the final restart, relegating him to a 37th-place finish, putting him out of the Chase.
Hamlin's bump of Austin Dillon for the lead leads to differing views RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings LOUDON, N.H. – To Denny Hamlin , it was just hard short-track racing for the win. To runner-up Austin Dillon , it was unnecessarily aggressive driving that led to Hamlin ’s victory in the Lakes Region 200 NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. On Lap 179 of 200 at the Magic Mile, Hamlin drove his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the inside of Dillon's No. 33 Chevrolet. Hamlin slid up the track into Dillon, broke the No. 33's momentum and took the lead. WATCH: Could payback be coming for Hamlin ? " Bad blood continues for Dillon, Hamlin Eventual third- and fourth-place finishers Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch also passed Dillon, who later regained the positions he lost to Keselowski and Busch but ran out of time in his pursuit of Hamlin . Earlier in the race Hamlin had two similar incidents with Busch, his teammate. And though Busch didn't appear particularly annoyed with Hamlin's tactics, Dillon was incensed. "He got to me, and I figured he was going to race, but he never even wanted to," Dillon said. "He wrecked his teammate and then proceeded to try and wreck me, and if I had gotten back to him, it would have happened to him." Hamlin wrote off the contact to all-out racing at a one-mile flat track. "The bottom line is, if you don't have any air on the outside of you, you just can't hold it," Hamlin said. "There was an example of that about three times today ... I want to thank 'Wheels' (crew chief Mike Wheeler) for giving me the dominant car. We had the best car, and just, wow, what a day." In Hamlin ’s view, Dillon wasn't blameless either. "Well, he jumped the restart, for one," Hamlin said. "I'm the control car, but that's fine. Eventually I was going to get back around him anyway. Same thing—I was a fender ahead, and he drove in there knowing that he was going to have to hold me low to hold the position, and I just washed up into him. "But that's two guys on a short track racing for the win." Dillon clearly had a different opinion. "What is racing, if you can't race side-by-side for more than a corner?" Dillon asked rhetorically. "He never even went through a corner with me, the whole race. He didn't want to. He just moved me. Missed the corner. Wrecked me. "I'm fine with racing rough. I promise you, I can do it to anybody. But if we're going to race like that, I need to know before you get to the first corner. Give me a corner at least." Dillon indicated there might be some payback in the offing but wouldn't reveal how or when. "I'm not going to talk about it," Dillon said. "He won't be ready." Hamlin's reply? "We’ve both got race cars." Dillon got the lead on Lap 175 moments after a restart following the sixth and final caution for Brian Scott 's blown engine. Both Hamlin and Dillon had stayed out on old tires under the previous yellow, but Keselowski came to pit road for fresh rubber on Lap 142. As it turned out, the new tires made little difference. "It was the right call and probably got us to third, instead of fourth or fifth," Keselowski said. "We just weren't as fast as the 33 and 20 were. ... We just weren't fast enough this weekend." Rookie Daniel Suarez ran fifth, followed by Ty Dillon , Regan Smith , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Chase Elliott and Brennan Poole . Series leader Chris Buescher finished 14th, one lap down, and saw his lead in the standings shrink to 31 points over second-place Elliott. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Pocono has become a strong spot for No. 11 driver Denny Hamlin got his first pole in just his sixth career Cup race, but the second pole was even better, as it came packaged with a trip to Victory Lane. In 2006, the eventual Sunoco Rookie of the Year started out as an all-or-nothing qualifier, with eight top-10 starting positions but three 30th-or-worse qualifying efforts through the first 13 races of his rookie season. At Pocono, the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Chevrolet found plenty of qualifying speed, putting Hamlin on the pole for the Pocono 500 on June 11. And that’s where Hamlin finished, too. But it wasn’t one of those green-to-checkered dominating performances. Hamlin took off at the start, maybe even faster in race trim than qualifying trim, putting a 6-second lead on the field and leading 49 of the the 50 laps. But he had a tire go down and spun. Hamlin saved the spin, but the deflated tire did some damage to the rear fender. However, the Virginia native rebounded in a big way. Hamlin wound up leading 83 of the race’s 200 laps and made his first trip to Cup Series Victory Lane at the Long Pond, Pennsylvania track where he would repeat as pole and race winner six races later. That second trip to Pocono was a little less exciting for Hamlin as it was one of those pure domination events. He cruised to the win, leading 151 or 200 laps. In that outing it was teammate Tony Stewart who made headlines when he gave Clint Bowyer ’s No. 07 more than a little bump, causing it to careen into Carl Edwards ’ No. 99. Hamlin enters the Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 race with four wins, nine top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 starts. He looks good to make a run at his fifth victory there after a weekend at Dover that saw him take the pole and top the speed charts in the final two practices before a wreck-marred 21st-place finish. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule