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Hamlin Finishes Third at Phoenix

Z-Line Designs Driver Leads Laps, but Comes Up Short

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), finished a solid third in Friday night’s Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Hamlin, who started sixth, equaled his career-best Nationwide Series finish at Phoenix, as he also finished third in November 2006.

“It’s a good run for our Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry,” Hamlin said. “Dave Rogers (crew chief) and the JGR guys gave me a good car. We just didn’t have enough to get by those guys at the end.”

Hamlin led twice for 18 laps and stayed in the top-five for nearly the entire race, which was extended two laps beyond its scheduled 200-lap distance and ended under a green-white-checkered finish. However, once Hamlin settled into third-place on lap 112, he didn’t change positions the rest of the night. His JGR teammate and eventual winner Kyle Busch, as well as runner-up Carl Edwards, battled for the lead throughout the last half of the race.

“Kyle and Carl were pretty strong,” Hamlin said. “We just couldn’t get up there and contend with them at the end.”

Hamlin and Busch continued a dominating Nationwide Series season for JGR, as the team has won four Nationwide Series races, three poles and led 912 of the 1,468 laps available (62 percent) eight races into the 35-race schedule.

“I believe Gibbs has really done their homework on these Nationwide Series cars and its showing up,” Hamlin said. “Kyle (Busch), Tony (Stewart) and those guys have really led a lot of laps and have been dominant, and rightfully could have or should have won every race so far this season. This is only my second run with these guys, but my schedule starts picking up here and hopefully we can continue that trend.”

Hamlin’s third-place finish put the No. 20 car fourth in owner points, 92 points behind the leading No. 2 entry of Richard Childress Racing.

There were nine caution periods for 36 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.

Busch scored his 13th career Nationwide Series victory and his second of the season by winning the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200. It was Busch’s second consecutive Nationwide Series win, as he won last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Edwards and Hamlin were second and third, respectively, while Kevin Harvick and David Ragan secured the rest of the top-five. Mike Bliss, Stephen Leicht, Clint Bowyer, David Reutimann and David Stremme comprised the remainder of the top-10.

The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the April 20 Mexico 200 at Mexico City’s legendary former Formula 1 road course – the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 1:30 p.m. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

The next Nationwide Series race for the Z-Line Designs machine is the April 26 Aaron’s 312 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Busch, who last drove the Z-Line Designs Toyota at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway in March, will return to the seat at Talladega.

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