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.”
Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.