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Fuel mistake costs Hamlin big at Chicagoland

September 17, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com



Fuel mistake costs Hamlin big at Chicagoland

JOLIET, Ill. -- Running out of fuel on the final lap of a race can be a frustrating experience, but it's even more damaging when it happens to a Chase contender like Denny Hamlin like it did in Sunday's GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Hamlin knew his mileage might be close after crew chief Darian Grubb admitted the crew didn't get the tank all the way full on the No. 11 Toyota during the final pit stop of the day. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough fuel pressure left to keep his engine from sputtering and dying within sight of the checkered flag.

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But despite dropping nearly 10 positions in the final lap, Hamlin was still upbeat about how his team can rebound next week at New Hampshire.

"We're only 15 [points] back or something like that -- we can make that up easily," Hamlin said. "We're fast enough to do that. The bad thing is that I felt like we could have run to third right there -- I just was having to run so slow to keep from running out of fuel, and we still ran out."

Hamlin could have been devastated by the change of fortune, but instead, he planned to use it as motivation.

"We're optimistic about next week, about trying to get a win," Hamlin said. "For this tough ending, we're going to need to perform well.

"... This was just us making a big mistake with our fuel again. It's tough, but we're strong enough and fast enough this Chase that we can make up 15 points easily."