Hamlin overcomes engine change, comes home third

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Despite having to start from the back due to a Saturday engine change on his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Denny Hamlin posted a strong third-place effort in today’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix.

Hamlin had to give up his eighth-place starting position because of the motor swap, but quickly made his way through the field. He found himself in fourth on the final lap of the race, when he made a bold move to the backstretch apron to try and pass both Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski for second place behind winner Carl Edwards.

Hamlin was beaten to the line for that spot by Johnson, but his daring run still made for some late excitement.

“I was plotting my move ever since I saw Jimmie and Brad side-by-side,” Hamlin said. “I knew it was going to be interesting, at least for that lap, because Brad was driving so hard. Eventually, he was going to slide up, and he knew he was going to slide up, and he did and opened the door for me.”

However, while Hamlin was happy for his third-place result — “We overachieved, that’s for sure,” he said — he was also frustrated by what he saw as a lack of passing from the new Generation-6 cars on Sunday.

“I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Generation-5 cars,” he said. “This is more like what the Generation-5 was at the beginning. The teams haven’t figured out how to get the aero balance right. Right now, you just run single-file and you cannot get around the guy in front of you.

“[If] you would have placed me in 20th place with 30 [laps] to go, I would have stayed there. I wouldn’t have moved up. It’s just one of those things where track position is everything.”

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.