Ham­lin ready for the play­off pres­sure at Phoenix

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer

It has not been an easy march through NASCAR’s play­offs for Denny Ham­lin, who once again must race his way into the next round.

Ham­lin was on his own at Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way, a track that re­quires help from other driv­ers to be suc­cess­ful. Ham­lin’s team­mates at Joe Gibbs Rac­ing had too much to lose that day and rode around in the back of the pack. He needed a strong fin­ish, and had to fig­ure it out alone.

Now he again goes into an elim­i­na­tion race with the pres­sure on to pull off a big fin­ish. Carl Ed­wards is the only JGR driver who al­ready has earned a berth in the cham­pi­onship race, and Ham­lin is com­pet­ing with team­mates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch for a spot in the fi­nal four.

All three of the JGR driv­ers are within two points of each other in Chase stand­ings. Busch is tied with Team Penske’s Joey Logano for the lead, with Kenseth one point be­hind them and Ham­lin two be­hind. Ham­lin fin­ished third at Phoenix ear­lier this year.

“Phoenix was a good track for us in the spring,” Ham­lin said. “I look to go back there and have an­other great run and go out there and try to win. That’s what we’re go­ing to do. Any time I’ve been be­low (the cut line) in an elim­i­na­tion race, I’ve found a way to get in (to the next round).

“I like our chances. It’s a pres­sure race and I like pres­sure.”

Crew chief fined

Team Penske crew chief Todd Gor­don has been fined $10,000 be­cause a lug nut was not prop­erly in­stalled on Joey Logano’s car at Texas.

The penalty was the only mon­e­tary fine is­sued by NASCAR on Wed­nes­day. But, five driv­ers were docked 15 min­utes of prac­tice time for in­spec­tion is­sues at Texas.

Kevin Har­vick, Tony Ste­wart, Carl Ed­wards and Martin Truex Jr. all failed the pre-qual­i­fy­ing tem­plate in­spec­tion three times. AJ All­mendinger failed the laser in­spec­tion three times be­fore qual­i­fy­ing. All will miss prac­tice time Fri­day at Phoenix.

DiBenedetto cleared

Matt DiBenedetto was cleared to race at Phoenix In­ter­na­tional Race­way af­ter NASCAR held him out of one event be­cause of a pos­si­ble con­cus­sion.

DiBenedetto missed last Sun­day’s race at Texas Mo­tor Speed­way, where he was in­volved in a crash dur­ing the Xfin­ity Se­ries race one day ear­lier. Jeffrey Earn­hardt re­placed DiBenedetto for BK Rac­ing and fin­ished 34th.

It was the first Cup race DiBenedetto had not started since early in the 2015 sea­son.

DiBenedetto had said Sun­day morn­ing at Texas he felt fine and able to race, but said he had to re­spect the de­ci­sion by NASCAR’s doc­tors.

“They de­cided they wanted to err on the side of cau­tion, which I un­der­stand,” he said. “They’re do­ing their job.”


Alexis DeJo­ria has a con­cus­sion that will side­line the Funny Car driver from this week­end’s NHRA Fi­nals in Pomona, Cal­i­for­nia.

DeJo­ria suf­fered the con­cus­sion in a crash dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing at the NHRA Toyota Na­tion­als in Las Ve­gas, where her head hit the roll cage af­ter the im­pact. She’ll be re­placed this week­end by Jeff Arend. DeJo­ria is not cleared to race, or even fly in a plane.

“I un­der­went a se­ries of cog­ni­tive tests and the doc­tors di­ag­nosed me with a full-blown con­cus­sion that re­quired me to step away from the seat for the time be­ing,” she said. “It takes two weeks for these symp­toms to sub­side and even then, be­cause of the trauma from the con­cus­sion, it would be un­safe for me to race this week­end.”

DeJo­ria missed two races ear­lier this sea­son with a frac­tured pelvis.

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