Tire issue sends Hamlin to rear for Sunday’s race

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota.

AVONDALE, Ariz. –Denny Hamlin got “screwed” during the first round of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying.

No, another competitor didn’t impede Hamlin’s progress on his run. Crew chief Mike Wheeler described what happened in a tweet on Friday night.

“Ran over a screw in Q1, came in 15 psi lower,” Wheeler posted about the cut tire that resulted. “NASCAR no longer allows changes. Tried to pump up for Q2, but didn’t work. Bummer. #startinglast”

During the offseason, NASCAR instituted a rule requiring drivers to start the race on their qualifying tires, and tires may be changed only in the case of a factory defect.

With the pumped-up tire, Hamlin nevertheless qualified 19th. Though he’ll have to start from the back of the field in Sunday’s Camping World 500 because of the tire change, he will retain the pit stall he earned with the 19th pick.

Hamlin tweeted that the rule “bit us big time. Run over something, get a flat, can’t continue (although we tried) and have to start in the back for it.”


Early in Saturday’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scraped the outside wall at Phoenix International Raceway after his brakes failed. Unlike last week at Las Vegas, however, Stenhouse didn’t have go to a backup car. His team changed the brakes and repaired the cosmetic damage before Stenhouse returned to the track. He was 23rd fastest in the session and improved to 20th on the speed chart during Happy Hour. … Chase Elliott led Saturday’s first practice session with a lap at 135.977 mph, followed by Joey Logano (135.466 mph), the polesitter for Sunday’s Camping World 500. Kyle Larson was third fastest at 135.323 mph. With ambient temperatures reaching 95 degrees for final practice, Logano paced the session at 134.736 mph, with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch second and third, respectively.