Denny Hamlin finished second in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, following a thrilling last lap battle with eventual winner Tony Stewart.
Hamlin led a race-high 33 laps but was running second on the final lap behind Stewart after running him down following the final caution with 14 laps to go. Hamlin took advantage of a mistake by Stewart in Turn 7 and nudged his way to the lead. But Hamlin wheel-hopped the #11 FedEx Cares Toyota entering Turn 11, opening the door for Stewart to pull alongside, making contact in the process. The contact caused the #11 to brush the outside wall allowing Stewart to retake the lead, beating Hamlin to the checkered flag by 0.625 seconds.
“Tony was doing a good job of maintaining his tires, a good job of running consistent laps there. Really, he gave me an opportunity to get close. On the last lap he wheel hopped into Turn 7, that allowed us to get by and I just did a poor job of getting through Turn 11. I was expecting him to really drive deep and I really thought that was going to happen and he did, but I also left the bottom open and that was a bad mistake on my part. Still a great race. I was proud of the FedEx Cares Toyota team for giving me a car that could win. We'll take this and go with it.”
Hamlin started sixth and was running eighth when he made his second scheduled green flag pit stop at lap 45. As the FedEx crew was servicing the car, a well-timed caution waved. Since Hamlin was one of only two cars to pit prior to the caution, he stayed out as the rest of the lead lap cars pitted, catapulting the FedEx car to second for the restart with 61 laps to go.
With track position at a premium, Hamlin would lead twice and race among the top-three for the remainder of the event, allowing him to make the last lap move on Stewart.
The second place finish is Hamlin's seventh top-ten finish of 2016 season and moved him up two spots to 11th in the NASCAR standings after 16 of 26 regular season races.
The series returns to action Saturday, July 2 at Daytona International Speedway.