Top 5 Again: Denny Hamlin Disappointed in Late Richmond Blunder

NASCAR NASCAR Cup Series
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By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

Tying the record for the most top fives in the opening eight races of a season without a win, perhaps a home track would spell victory for Denny Hamlin.

With 207 laps led and a sweep of both the race’s stages, it was looking quite good for driver No. 11 to earn career win No. 45 in NASCAR Cup competition.

That was until Sunday’s Toyota Care 400 at Richmond Raceway took a turn for the unexpected.

Battling Joey Logano for the lead with under 25 laps to go, Hamlin was looking to complete the pass on the No. 22 before Kevin Harvick cut a tire and flew into the Turn 1 SAFER barrier, prompting a caution flag and a round of pit stops.

Earning the race lead with an 11.9-second pit stop, Hamlin restarted in the lead with just 12 laps left.

Despite the prime position, Alex Bowman, who was 13 seconds behind the Hamlin/Logano battle, overtook Hamlin’s No. 11 to score the victory.

“We just didn’t take off quite as good there at the end,” Hamlin said. “I tried to warm it up and do everything I could. The No. 48 [Alex Bowman] had a little more on those last few laps and I couldn’t hold the bottom. Once he got the position, we were just shut down there.”

With seven top fives in the opening eight rounds of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season — tying Darrell Waltrip and Benny Parsons with the record — Hamlin was in the running for the win Sunday at Richmond.

However, it was a top five again for Hamlin, an eighth in nine races this season.

“[I needed] just more grip,” he said. “The No. 48 just had more there on the short run. Just got us out of position. I don’t know if their tires were pumped up extra, but they started fading there at the end, but they had already put a gap there.”

Despite missing out on the victory again — this time at his home track of Richmond — Hamlin is proud to be in his current position, contending for victories each weekend and leading the points by 81 over the competition.

“We will get them,” he said. “We will keep digging. We are dominating – just have to finish it.”

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