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Denny Hamlin’s team worked feverishly to get the No. 11 car back on track, after electrical issues sent them to the garage Sunday at Martinsville. Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR
By: Toby Christie – Follow on Twitter @Tobalical
And then there were two. Just when it was looking like a three man race for the championship between Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin; Hamlin suffers a crushing electrical issue at a racetrack he has dominated at recently.
Heading into Sunday Hamlin had won three of the last six races at Martinsville, and he had finished outside the top-12 just once in his career at the half-mile paperclip. Sunday looked to be more of the same for Hamlin, as he had a stout car. He led 12 laps, despite getting busted for speeding on pitroad twice on the day. Hamlin talked about his speeding penalties after his disappointing day.
“I was doing what the crew chief said. I don’t know if that’s the right thing as far as NASCAR is concerned, but they assured me that there was no way the speed on entry with the timing lines and so I think that there was a little bit of an underestimation of how quick these cars can launch when you do take off. I think that there was something more to that than what we thought,” Hamlin said. “Nothing we couldn’t overcome. We still drove our tails right back up to the front twice and passed the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) about four times.”
Even with the speeding penalties, Hamlin was right in the thick of the hunt for the grandfather clock trophy — that is until his car started slowing under the green flag. An electrical issue forced Hamlin behind the wall, and sent him to a heartbreaking 33rd place finish.
The pain in Hamlin’s eyes after the race, added to the disappointment in his voice.
“It (my day) ended in disappointment, but we overcame the pit road penalties and things like that and just had a great car. Just when these things happen you’ve just got to suck it up and move on. There’s nothing I could do about it. So, one of these days it’s going to be our time, it’s just not going to be right now,” a dejected Hamlin explained.
Although he isn’t mathematically eliminated from Chase contention, Hamlin needs a lot of help if he wants to leave Homestead with the Sprint Cup hoisted above his head. He dropped from third place in the standings (20 points behind) to fifth in the standings (49 points behind). It can be done, but with the talent ahead of him it seems highly unlikely. Despite the heartbreak, Hamlin seems at peace with what he has to do for the remainder of the year.
“Just have fun — that’s all I can do. Just go out there and be relaxed and enjoy this championship battle that’s shaping up. It’s a shame we can’t be a part of it, but we’re going to try to work our way as far up in the points as we possibly can and just keep digging.”
– Toby Christie is the lead Motorsports writer for Sicknissified.com, and he is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly. Toby can be reached via twitter or email. Tweet him @Tobalical or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Sicknissified.com on facebook and twitter.
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photo credit: getty images
DENNY HAMLIN - WINNER
#11 FedEx Express Toyota
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 102.6
Five wins, 13 top fives, 16 top 10s; three poles
Average finish of 11.9
Led 22 races for 1,168 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
Four wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles
Average finish of 6.4 in 14 races
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