Hamlin Gassed At Loudon
July 18, 2006 | 8:17 A.M. EST
Hamlin was running second and looked like he might have something for leader and eventual race winner Kyle Busch late in the race.
But a series of caution flags, including a bizarre crash under yellow between Michael Waltrip and Robby Gordon, extended the race eight additional laps than the scheduled 300 circuit distance.
Unfortunately for Hamlin, crew chief Mike Ford had calculated just enough fuel to get the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet to the finish line and the extra laps proved to be costly.
Hamlin ran out of fuel on the final lap, giving up second place to Carl Edwards and eventually coasting to the checkered flag in sixth place.
"It was unfortunate because I think we had enough fuel to make it before the race was extended even longer at the end,” said Hamlin. “The wreck under that last caution killed us because it was looking like I would have had a shot at Kyle but I sputtered right there at the green-white-checkered."
"I couldn’t really do anything to save any fuel. I tried to clutch as I entered the corner and coast through, then gas it back up on the straightaway but I wasn’t going to make it. I hated to see those guys get past us at the end but we made it to the line and it’s still a sixth-place run so I’m pretty happy about that."
Ford was disappointed, but took the finish in stride.
"Any time you can put yourself into position to win a race at this level is a good day," he said. "It could have gone either way for us, depending on how the cautions fell. Some late race cautions kind of cost us on fuel a little bit. We knew it was going to be close. I don’t know exactly what happened but that cost us a shot at winning the race. We controlled what we could today and we ended up in good shape."
The finish keeps Hamlin in 12th place in the NASCAR Nextel Cup standings, only 18 points out of ninth place, heading to Pocono and the site of his first Nextel Cup win next weekend. Hamlin also earned Raybestos Rookie of the Race honors for the tenth time this season.