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.”
MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Ryan Briscoe. Despite not having a ride to start the year, Briscoe ended strongly courtesy of a series of strong runs at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Ryan Briscoe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
- 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 18th Place (8 starts), Best Finish 5th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 17.8 Avg. Start, 12.0 Avg. Finish
For those who slag on Briscoe as being undeserving of top level equipment, his 2015 second half provided a friendly reminder of his overall ability level in what might be less than the best machinery.
Briscoe was thrust into the No. 5 car under trying circumstances to begin with, getting all of an hour’s worth practice replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe ahead of the Indianapolis 500. But subsequent drives on the ovals there, Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Iowa – even if the results were less than ideal – showcased a driver determined to show to the paddock he still had it, and then some. His defense against Juan Pablo Montoya in Sonoma was nothing short of brilliant, and courtesy of double points he actually finished ahead of full-season driver Stefano Coletti.
The Australian immediately gelled with the SPM team, engineer Allen McDonald and race strategist Robert Gue. He continues to prove he’s an asset, as he has enjoyed multiple opportunities to extend his career in various arenas of motorsport in both open-wheel and sports cars, the latter of which he won at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing this year.
Following an early retirement for Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton has closed even more on his third Formula 1 World Championship.
View it above in the race recap from the 2015 Russian Grand Prix.