Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Hamlin Embarrassed by Martinsville Miscues
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Denny Hamlin did it again.
When looking at the field for the STP 500 now that nine-time winner Jeff Gordon has retired, Hamlin admitted Friday morning his biggest competition was himself. With five Grandfather clocks of his own, Hamlin is consistently on the list when it comes to Martinsville Speedway contenders.
But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has also beaten himself on more than one occasion, including Sunday.
After starting eighth, Hamlin was running fifth when he wheel-hopped going into Turn 1 on Lap 222. The action shot him up the track, and he slammed the outside wall. The right side damage was significant enough that it sent his No. 11 FedEx Toyota to the garage for repairs.
Hamlin immediately apologized to his team for the accident and making a mistake he never had before.
“It’s my first time ever doing it here, so it’s a little embarrassing, but I mean we were the fastest car those last 30 laps and we got back to the top-five and I was making up a lot of my speed on entry,” he said. “As the tires wear, the rears get hotter, less grip, you can’t brake at the same amount – it was really out of the blue.
“I didn’t ever have a hint of it up until that moment, so a bit of a rookie move on my part. Been around here too much to do something like that, but learning for the fall and I’m really encouraged about how good our car came up through the pack and I really thought we had a car that could win.”
The accident was Hamlin’s second misstep of the day. He had already worked his way back through the field following a speeding penalty on an early pit stop. With his experience in having to recovery from such penalties at Martinsville in the past, including two last fall, Sunday was off to a typical start for Hamlin.
“I don’t know how many pit road penalties I’ve had here or why I choose to push it on pit road knowing that I have the speed on the racetrack that we’ve shown,” Hamlin said Friday. “That’s been a challenge and last year in the fall race I beat up my car pretty good trying to come back through the pack the second time or maybe it was the first time I had a penalty.”
Hamlin, who won the Daytona 500, entered Martinsville following two third place finishes in the last two weeks. He would not return to the race, however, and was officially listed as out on Lap 295.
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