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
Coors Light Pole winner, teammate Edwards go 1-2 in both sessions RELATED: Practice 2 results " Final practice results Denny Hamlin kept his car at the top of the speed charts in Saturday's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, a session cut short by a significant fluid leak at Dover International Speedway . Hamlin pushed his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota to a best lap of 156.087 mph on the 1-mile concrete track. Hamlin also led Saturday's early practice and secured the first starting spot with the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday's qualifying. As in Saturday's early session, Hamlin's JGR teammate Carl Edwards was second-fastest in the No. 19 Toyota with a lap of 155.602 mph. Paul Menard was third-best at 155.206 mph in the Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet. Matt Kenseth was fourth-fastest and Kyle Busch fifth as Joe Gibbs Racing entries claimed four of the top five spots on the practice leaderboard. Jimmie Johnson , a nine-time Dover winner, logged the sixth-best lap ahead of Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). The final session was originally scheduled for 50 minutes, but a major fluid leak from the rear of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet oiled a large portion of the track. Practice was stopped for approximately 13 minutes for extensive clean-up. Race officials added five minutes to the end of the session to make up for the red flag. Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , the standings leader, was seventh-fastest in the final tune-up in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet. Hamlin stays the course in practice 2 Denny Hamlin continued his steady show of speed at Dover International Speedway , leading Saturday morning's next-to-last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice. Hamlin wheeled the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota to a best lap of 156.331 mph on the 1-mile concrete layout. A day earlier, he landed the Coors Light Pole Award, clinching the No. 1 starting spot for Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). Though Hamlin has three pole positions for the last six Dover events, he has yet to score a Sprint Cup victory at the Monster Mile. Hamlin already has wins in hand this season at Martinsville Speedway and in the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Carl Edwards , a teammate of Hamlin's at JGR and last weekend's Coca-Cola 600 winner, clinched the second spot on the practice leaderboard with a 156.325-mph lap. His best time in the No. 19 Toyota was just one-thousandth of a second slower than Hamlin's chart-topping lap. Kurt Busch was third-fastest at 155.736 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. Jimmie Johnson , a nine-time Dover winner in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevy, was fourth-fastest at 155.723 mph. David Ragan , prepping for his third start in the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota, completed the top five at 155.602 mph. Defending Sprint Cup champion and current points leader Kevin Harvick was eighth-fastest in the 50-minute session. Final Sprint Cup practice is scheduled for 1-1:50 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Wrecks, penalties, mechanical failure hurt team RELATED: Hamlin goes for wild ride " Edwards crew member pulled out of pit box DOVER, Del. -- After the Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway came to a close, Clint Bowyer walked right up to Denny Hamlin on pit road and offered him a sincere apology. "I'm so sorry," Bowyer said repeatedly. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver had gotten into the back of Hamlin's No. 11 on Lap 386 of 400, turning the Joe Gibbs Racing driver loose and sending him into the wall. Hamlin had led 118 laps, the second-highest in the race behind Martin Truex Jr . “We were on those new tires and I thought we were going to really make some hay and we got clear of the 15 ( Clint Bowyer )," Hamlin said post-race. "I thought we were going to make a run at it. We never even got a corner through before we got turned around. Disappointed, but we really didn’t have a winning car there at the end of the race.” Hamlin wasn't the only JGR driver to face troubles at the "Monster Mile." In fact, all four of the teammates did. It began with Carl Edwards on pit road around Lap 164, when he pullled away from his pit box with a wedge wrench still stuck in the car, taking a crew member with him who was trying to remove it. Edwards was penalized for taking equipment out of the pit box. Trouble found Edwards again at Lap 254 when he was penalized for speeding on pit road. The No. 19 driver worked hard to make up the time, but ultimately finished 19th and three laps off pace. "We had a couple problems on pit lane," Edwards said. "But the biggest problem was my speeding. I didn’t realize I couldn’t speed in that segment so I was being a little aggressive and that cost us. I just feel bad for all of my teammates. They were running really well and we all had bad luck. Overall, the JGR ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) cars were very fast this weekend and I still believe we’re on a big upward swing with our Toyotas." Next to face hardship was Matt Kenseth . The No. 20 driver was first penalized for too many crew members over the wall on Lap 355 and then on Lap 367, the suspension on his Toyota broke, taking him out of the race and causing him to finish 39th. Then with 25 laps to go, Kyle Busch collided with Brian Scott , forcing the No. 18 out of the race with a 36th-place finish. MORE: Scott apologizes after spoiling Kyle Busch's run While a lot of what the JGR drives experienced was misfortune, Hamlin spoke about the struggles they've faced as a team to gain speed. "Our cars fade in the middle of the race it seems like," Hamlin said. "We had some good raw speed while the track is clean, but it seems like our cars -- they were fifth-place cars for the most part. The 20 ( Matt Kenseth ), 18 ( Kyle Busch ), those guys got a little better at certain points of the race, but I still think we have work to do. We’re not the best organization, we’re not the fastest cars by any means right now." The Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway next weekend where Hamlin has the best record of the JGR squad with four wins, nine top-fives and 12 top-10 finishes. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
JGR driver ready to race at Dover after Charlotte setbacks DOVER, Del. -- Bouncing back from last week's health scare, Denny Hamlin comes to Dover International Speedway healthy for Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing driver suffered from an intense migraine and nausea last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway , which were suspected to have been brought on by dehydration. On Friday, Hamlin revealed what actually could have been the cause. "We had an exhaust leak in our car," Hamlin said at Dover. "We found a hole in our header and exhaust system that was leaking into our car, and that didn't help at all either. We also had run the XFINITY race the day before, and we're not doing that this week. "I felt like I kept up with my fluids pretty well last week, but obviously it wasn't enough. Obviously, the conditions of the car didn't make things very easy for me. The headache had nothing to do with the dehydration. The migraine that I suffered I felt like was from the exhaust inside the car." Hamlin was taken to the infield care center when he finished last week's Coca-Cola 600 and later popped into the media center during Carl Edwards ' victory press conference. "My off day was 36 holes of golf and a full tennis match," Hamlin said after the race last Sunday. "Probably overdid it a little bit. I think the dehydration led to a migraine and I just felt nauseous the last 100 laps or so." Hamlin won the Coors Light Pole Award at the "Monster Mile" and was the second fastest (163.532 mph) during the Sprint Cup Series opening practice session on Friday. This is the third Dover pole award for the Toyota driver, who is winless in 18 Cup starts at the 1-mile track. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver suffered from a migraine and nausea during Coca-Cola 600 CONCORD, N.C. -- Denny Hamlin made a brief appearance in the media center long after the conclusion of Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Eighth-place finishers don’t normally do that. Neither do drivers who go straight from pit road to the infield medical center. Hamlin dropped by only long enough to offer congratulations to race-winner Carl Edwards , crew chief Darian Grubb (his former pit caller) and team owner Joe Gibbs. He was, however, on his feet, and that was a bonus considering his physical state when he first climbed from his car. Suffering from a migraine headache, Hamlin sat down next to his car on pit road with head in his hands. He eventually got up and took a few uncertain steps before team personnel stepped in to assist. He was transported to the infield care center moments later. “My off day was 36 holes of golf and a full tennis match,” Hamlin said afterward. “Probably overdid it a little bit this weekend. I think the dehydration led to a migraine and I just felt nauseous the last 100 laps or so. Thank goodness that didn’t cost us the win. “Just the bad end of that strategy … but still proud of our team for really giving me a car that could contend for a win." Although he led twice for 53 laps in Sunday’s 400-lap race, and was out front with less than 40 laps remaining, a vibration sent the No. 11 Toyota to pit road under green. From there, separate pit-stop strategies kept the 34-year-old playing catch-up. Prior to the stop, he and Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) appeared to have the cars to beat. “That part of it stunk a little bit, but the 78 (Truex) came back and passed us anyway. When he came back out, he had fresher air … I came out kind of middle of the pack and just couldn’t run the lap times I needed to.” This year’s winner at Martinsville, Hamlin said he felt better after the trip to the care center. “You just try to power through it and of course when you run well, you always feel a little bit better,” he said, “but when the race is over and everything comes to a stop, you realize how bad you feel.” FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Joe Gibbs Racing driver edges Truex in Monster Mile qualifying RELATED: Full qualifying results Denny Hamlin rolled to the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Dover International Speedway . Hamlin drove the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota to a fast lap of 160.121 mph on the 1-mile concrete oval. He'll start first in Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). The pole position was Hamlin's first of the season, third at the Monster Mile and 21st of his Sprint Cup career. The pole-winning lap was significantly slower than the track qualifying record of 164.444 mph set by Brad Keselowski in May. "It's great," said Hamlin , who also won the Dover pole in September 2012 and May 2013. "Obviously our car's shown speed all day long, which is something that we haven't had lately, so we're kind of building and getting a little bit better and starting to figure out our setups and whatnot. So we're getting better and obviously this kind of shows it." Martin Truex Jr ., second in the Sprint Cup standings, will share Sunday's front row in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Chevrolet after notching the second-fastest lap at 159.723 mph. Kyle Larson , Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano completed the top five. Defending Sprint Cup champion and current points leader Kevin Harvick qualified sixth-fastest in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet. Kyle Busch , making just his second start of the season in points-paying races since returning from serious leg injuries in a February crash at Daytona, earned the 10th starting spot in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota. Some big names were left out of later qualifying rounds at the two elimination stages in the three-round format. Jimmie Johnson , a nine-time Dover winner in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet, was among them. After leading opening Sprint Cup practice earlier in the day, he posted just the 14th-fastest lap in Round 2, failing to make the final cut to determine the top 12 starters. "I think, in a sense, we maybe didn't make the changes we need to or thought we needed to change, because the car had so much speed in that first practice session, but it's a totally different race track," Johnson said. "And we tried to plan ahead and made some small changes, but it wasn't enough." Kurt Busch was also in that unfortunate group, making just the 13th-best lap to miss the cut for the final, five-minute round. Keselowski was the final driver to make the cut after Round 1, edging Kasey Kahne by .005 seconds for the 24th spot. The Team Penske driver ended up qualifying 19th. Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart also just missed the cut, posting the 26th-fastest lap. Jeff Green and Travis Kvapil failed to qualify for the 43-car field. Sprint Cup drivers will have their final chance to tune up for Sunday's 400-miler in a pair of practice sessions Saturday (10-10:55 a.m. ET and 1-1:55 p.m. ET, FS1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Can JGR driver build off last season's run to the Championship 4? RELATED: Full schedule of driver previews Team: Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Rank in final 2014 standings: Third Wins: One ( Talladega Superspeedway in May) Year in photos: Recap Hamlin's 2014 season Strides: Denny Hamlin carried momentum from his victory in the 2013 season finale into Speedweeks, winning the Sprint Unlimited exhibition and one of the two Budweiser Duel qualifying races ahead of the Daytona 500 . He finished just short of winning the Great American Race with a runner-up finish, but applied the No. 11 team's knack for restrictor-plate tracks to post his first career victory at Talladega Superspeedway , clinching a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Once in the postseason, Hamlin was able to advance through all three rounds of the Chase's new format, landing one of four title-eligible spots in the Sprint Cup Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . He led 50 laps but wound up seventh in the finale -- third among the championship quartet -- when a gamble on pit strategy unraveled in the late stages. "We gave it our best run," Hamlin said. "I mean, we put together really our best race all year, that final race, and gave those guys a run when we really hadn't had the speed to race with them all year. We gave it an effort and just came up short. Really proud of what we were able to accomplish this year, even though it was somewhat of a down year for our team." Setbacks: A freak eye injury in March forced Hamlin to seek medical care at Auto Club Speedway for the second straight year on race day. In 2013, a tangle with Joey Logano left Hamlin with a broken back that sidelined him for four races and part of a fifth; in 2014, a sliver of metal in his left eye forced him out, just an hour before the green flag. A medical exemption by NASCAR officials allowed him to remain Chase-eligible as long as he met all other criteria. The new Chase qualification rules also benefited Hamlin later in the season, but the No. 11 team still felt heavy repercussions in the process. After a post-race technical infraction was found at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , NASCAR issued stiff penalties by stripping the team of 75 points, suspending crew chief Darian Grubb for six races and fining him $125,000. Injuries and penalties notwithstanding, Hamlin said after the season that he drove most of the year facing a performance deficit compared to his front-running rivals. With Joe Gibbs Racing expanding to a four-team operation with the addition of Carl Edwards to the 2015 driver roster, Hamlin said he hopes the benefits of additional information sharing can help get the organization over the hump. "You've just got to get better in all aspects, and I think we've always just been kind of that next-tier team, realistically," Hamlin said. "We can compete for race wins, week in and week out, but the championships have escaped us through mechanical stuff, which we've worked out, or this year it was just our cars weren't fast enough to compete with those guys. However, we gave ourselves a great chance that last race to really sneak a championship away from 'em, but overall we've just got to get better in more areas, and I think going to the fourth team will allow us to do that." Quoteworthy: "A lot of ups and downs -- it's been a tough year to start the year missing a race. We didn't have the tools to win a lot of races throughout the year, but we got better and we got better when it really counted. It wasn't for a lack of effort. Everyone gave 100 percent to give me the best car they could this weekend. It just wasn't enough to beat those guys." -- Hamlin , moments after finishing seventh in the championship race at Homestead-Miami. What's next: Hamlin's three-year run with Grubb drew to a close after a dramatic shake-up to JGR's crew chief lineup in the offseason. The new assignments for 2015 mean that Hamlin will pair with Dave Rogers, who served as crew chief for Kyle Busch on the No. 18 Toyota team in Sprint Cup since 2010. What won't change is the team's ultra-fast pit crew, often credited as one of the sport's best. Rogers and Hamlin have worked together with success in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series (seven wins together), and Rogers' tenure with Busch produced 13 Sprint Cup wins over a five-year stretch. Hamlin's 2014 finish was the third near-miss in his quest for a career-defining breakthrough championship at NASCAR's highest level. Though times are changing at JGR with its expansion and juggling of crew chiefs, Hamlin brings high hopes that the new combination with Rogers will bear fruit in 2015. "He's well-regarded within our sport amongst other crew chiefs and I know what he can do," Hamlin said. "He's been with the No. 11 FedEx team before. This is his second time around, but me and him have never worked together in the Cup Series. I have driven his cars during tests and been really fast and comfortable with them, so I'm very excited about what we can do." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
JGR teammate discusses challenges of being out of the car for an injury Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live HAMPTON, Ga. – Denny Hamlin says he has a pretty good idea of what Kyle Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, is going through these days. Busch, 29, suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot in a crash during the Feb. 21 NASCAR XFINITY Series race, the Alert Today Florida 300, at Daytona International Speedway. He has undergone surgeries on both injuries and is currently recuperating at home. It is not known when he will be able to return to competition. Hamlin missed four Sprint Cup Series races in 2013 when he suffered a back injury in a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway. "I talked to him this week," Hamlin said Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (FOX, 1 p.m. ET). "A little bit after Daytona, just talking about our cars and what I thought we felt. Kind of keeping him up to date with where we're at. But I haven't talked to him this weekend. "My guess is he's on plenty of pain medication and that's making him feel pretty good." Hamlin said the difficult part for Busch would likely be rehabilitation as Busch's body continues to heal. That and dealing with the emotions of being sidelined for so long while unable to go about his normal daily routine. "I know that personally," Hamlin said. "When you break something or something like that, the initial days you're like 'this isn't so bad, I can survive that,' but the rehab and going through all that is really going to be a challenge for him. "The biggest thing is just fighting your emotions and not getting all torn up about not being able to do the things that you were normally able to do. I was in a wheelchair for just a couple of days, he's probably going to be there for awhile so … the mental challenge will probably be the toughest thing he'll have to overcome." Two-time NACAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton filled in for Busch in the season-opening Daytona 500, finishing 18th in the team's No. 18 Toyota. Earlier this week, JGR officials named David Ragan the team's interim driver for the next several weeks. Ragan, a two-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series, will start 17th in Sunday's race. Eighteen-year-old Erik Jones is filling in for Busch this weekend in the organization's No. 54 entry in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Jones was originally slated to compete in 10 XFINITY events this year, with his next scheduled start coming at Auto Club Speedway. The series visits Las Vegas and Phoenix before the Auto Club stop, and JGR officials have not announced its driver plans for the No. 54 XFINITY Series team beyond this weekend. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Clint Bowyer gets into the back of Denny Hamlin and sends him for a wild ride, collecting Kurt Busch along the way.
Joe Gibbs gives an update on Denny Hamlin ’s health and moments later Hamlin walks in on their press conference.