BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) - Denny Hamlin returned to the site of his only Sprint Cup victory this season, and the visit couldn't have gone much worse.
Hamlin finished 35th Sunday after having to stop in at the garage about two thirds of the way through the race. He's now been out of the top 10 in seven of the eight races since he won here in June.
``We have to get this ship up and pointing back in the right direction, and it's going to take a lot of hard work to do it,'' Hamlin said. ``This is the first time where I've struggled and we're struggling to find the balance of the car that I want.''
Hamlin was coming off a 36th-place finish at Watkins Glen that included a hard wreck. He switched to a Toyota engine for this race and had the fourth-best qualifying speed Friday.
However, Hamlin was forced into the garage after he brushed against a wall, and he finished 15 laps behind winner Kyle Busch.
``We were fighting the car all day from tight to loose and back and forth,'' Hamlin said. ``Our car just really struggled on corner entry on being loose. I was in a pack of cars there and tried to enter the corner with a little bit more speed and just got too loose and got into the wall.''
Hamlin is 14th in the Sprint Cup standings with three races left in the regular season. But because of his one victory he's still in line to receive a wild card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
But he's looking like less and less of a threat these days.
``To me, it's not worth making the Chase if I'm not going to be effective in the Chase,'' Hamlin said.
POLITICAL GUESTS: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan took a tour of Clint Bowyer's hauler before the race. The two appeared alongside members of Richard Childress Racing's team to promote biofuels.
NASCAR has moved from unleaded fuel to an ethanol blend in all three of its national series beginning this season, switching to Sunoco Green E15.
``NASCAR has embraced E15, which is an indication to the American traveling public that if it's good enough for these sophisticated, high-tech vehicles, it certainly should be good enough for my family vehicle,'' said Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa.
DESMOND'S SPEED: Former University of Michigan football star and Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard had an opportunity to find out Sunday what it felt like when someone else went fast.
Howard, known for his speed on the field throughout his career, went for a ride in a pace car prior to serving as the grand marshal for the race.
``It's a good feeling to go 150 (mph) legally,'' said Howard, a former receiver. ``Most skill position players, we love speed.''
Howard called the ride a ``great experience.''
``You really don't know it's 150,'' he said. ``What can get scary is how close the driver takes you to the wall doing 150.''
He added that he's not interested in going that fast too often.
``I used to be a fast driver, but now I have children,'' Howard said. ``So I kind of want to stick around for a while. I take my time now and I also buckle up.''
SUMMER SHOWDOWN: With his win Sunday, Busch qualified to be a finalist for a chance to earn a $3 million payout in the Sprint Summer Showdown.
If Busch can win the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend, he will claim the Showdown title and win $1 million for himself, $1 million for his designated charity, the Kyle Busch Foundation, and $1 million for a race fan. Later this week, a fan will be randomly selected from a pool of entrants who correctly picked Busch to win the Michigan race, and that fan will receive a trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway to see whether Busch can win there.

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