Accident sidelines Hamlin after dominating performance

Russell LaBounty/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

After a dominating performance in the Can-AM 500 at Phonix Raceway, Denny Hamlin’s shot at winning the race and racing for a championship were depleted following a blown tire on Lap 276 due to contact with Chase Elliott.

Going into the race, Hamlin needed to gain 19 points on Brad Keselowski. Hamlin was able to finish second in the first stage and win the second stage to get rid of that points deficit. In the third stage, the stage was set for Hamlin to join Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. in the final stage.

Throughout the day, the pit crew on the No. 11 FedEx Toyota was able to get Hamlin off pit road in the first position. Unfortunately on one of the final pit stops, Hamlin stalled on the pit lane, despite the jack being dropped. Hamlin waited additional seconds for the tire changer to make sure the lug nuts were secure.

When the race restarted on Lap 265, Hamlin restarted in the third position. Unfortunately for Hamlin, Elliott was there on his bumper roughing him up. With 50 laps remaining, Hamlin and Elliott made contact giving Hamlin a tire rub. After seven laps had passed, the tire finally blew, sending him into the wall, and ultimately ending his shot at a win and for a championship at Homestead.

“We got ran into the fence by the 24 (Elliott) when we running up front all day. We had a bad pit stop and then we didn’t really make any adjustments. Our car got really tight and we were just battling all we could to keep our track position. We weren’t and we allowed out competition to get close to us,” said Hamlin.

Many people on social media saw the contact between Hamlin and Elliott as payback for what happened at Martinsville Speedway in the closing laps of the race that saw Elliott finish in the 27th position. Hamlin tried to smooth things over with Elliott before Texas, but things did not work so well.

“I mean, each person had their own opinion of how they do things and it just proved to the people that thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing in the same circumstances, so, I mean, you know, it’s just part of racing. I got into him and he chose to retaliate, so I’m in the garage and that’s the way it is. We did a great job all day. This is the best car I’ve had in a very long time. We just got behind on the pit stops and then that just gave those guys an opportunity to get close.”

Hamlin was regulated with a 35th place finish, but will not go to Homestead without fighting for a win.

“We’re just going to keep racing as hard as we can every week and try to go out there and win Homestead (Miami Speedway) and make sure our competition doesn’t.”

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