Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Eleventh NASCAR Day of Christmas: 11 Car-a-Spinnin'

The team works on the No. 11 car before the start
of the Ford 400 at Homestead.

In addition to "Jimmie Johnson Wins Fifth Consecutive Title," the headline following Homestead could well have been "The Mighty Denny Has Spun Out."

And though Denny's misstep made for a more dramatic race, it wasn't the cause of his failure to win the Chase crown.

His run for the championship started to sputter the week before Homestead.

Riding high and talking trash, Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford entered the Kobalt Tools 500 with trophy expectations and a car that dominated most of the race.

But as events played out, it became clear that fuel mileage - not a sweet car - would be the key to a strong finish.

Unfortunately for Hamlin, Ford failed to tell his driver to save fuel. And while Hamlin ran wide open, fellow championship rivals Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick conserved enough Sunoco to make it 'til the end.

Result? Hamlin had to pit, while Johnson and Harvick had the staying power to finish - cutting Hamlin's points lead to just 15.

Hamlin was visibly discouraged after the checkers.

"It's pretty disappointing. We were in a good position going into next week," Hamlin said. "Good cars and all that, we had that today. It's tough to say what we've got to do. We had everything today. We had bad strategy at the end and it let those guys back in there."

So instead of a confident, swaggering Chase leader rolling into Homestead, Hamlin entered the Miami track a bundle of nerves.

His poor qualifying run didn't help - and the team couldn't get their mojo back all day long.

So while Hamlin's little spin didn't help his championship hopes - it wasn't the cause of the Fed Ex team's troubles.

Those can be blamed on a failure to communicate at Phoenix.

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