Denny Hamlin ‘Throws a Shot At It’ With Final Pit Call

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

In a race at Martinsville Speedway where tire wear was a distant second to track position, many were speechless when the fourth-place-running car of Denny Hamlin dove to pit road for an overtime finish.

With 13 cars on the lead lap, Hamlin would end up restarting 10th and fell to 11th after Tyler Reddick pounced on the final restart.

By all accounts, it was an “L” for Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart.



However, with two wins on the season, don’t expect the Joe Gibbs Racing team to regret any decision made on Sunday.

“We threw a shot at it,” Hamlin said. “We tried to pull a better finish, maybe a win. It just didn’t work out. We were just trying to do anything we could to steal one.

“We needed seven or eight cars to do it. Even still, the tires didn’t wear enough to really matter. Joey [Logano] stayed out with 80-lap left [-side tires] and led for most of the [first stage]. Tires didn’t wear, we struggled to pass all day.”

For Gabehart, the call atop the box was a no-brainer given the earned circumstance of already owning a playoff spot. Instead of restarting fourth behind the 1-2-3 of Hendrick Motorsports, he went for the gamble.

Originally planning to take two tires, Gabehart pivoted to four tires when no nearby lead-lap cars followed them to pit road.

“We have two wins,” Gabehart said. “We were going to have to restart fourth there. I ultimately told Denny, ‘If nobody in front of you pits, go ahead and pit.’ Let’s try to shake it up, make something different happen. Fourth or fifth is really no different to us from 10th or 11th given we have two wins.”

Though finishing 11th instead of fourth doesn’t impact Hamlin’s playoff standing, Gabehart, obviously, wasn’t pleased with the end result.

“You hate making the wrong decision,” he said. “It was probably more emotionally driven in terms of trying to make something happen versus everyone staying out. Everybody knows that tires aren’t worth anything at Martinsville now. We’re split-stinting green-flag runs at Martinsville, that’s just asinine, truthfully.”

Furthermore, the tires are another reason how the cars are “too easy for the guys to drive” at a track like Martinsville.

“They’re the world’s best stock car racers,” he said. “They have a lot of tire, independent rear suspension, so that’s a lot of grip. Then they have 100 less horsepower than the previous version of Martinsville racing. Cars are a lot easier to drive, they’re all the same car so it’s hard to get any kind of advantage when you can only drive one kind of way and setups can only be so different.”

Hamlin agrees, saying it was unlikely to succeed without other cars following suit.

“We certainly didn’t get the finish we deserved but we still ran really well,” Hamlin said. “Since we had those wins, we were just trying to do something to drag others down pit road with us. It just didn’t work out. They knew this track gets blocked two-by-two and you can’t go nowhere.”

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