Hamlin avoids playoff disaster despite pair of late incidents

In the span of about 14 laps, things went from bad to worse for Denny Hamlin at Texas Motor Speedway and appeared headed for playoff disaster.

There was contact with Ryan Blaney and a tire rub, which led to a flat tire and spin. Then being collected in an accident ahead of him resulted in heavy damage to the nose of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry. The first incident, the spin, occurred on lap 314, and the crash was on lap 328.

But somehow, despite all of that, Hamlin finished 11th and is still above the cutline in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Even better, Hamlin gained two points on the cutline.

“It’s insane; I think we ended up gaining a point over the cut somehow,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know. It’s just a crazy day. The way these cars race where we are packed up for a couple of laps, you just never know. It’s going to be the same way at Kansas. Hopefully, we bring a fast piece there, and we can go there and compete for a win.”

Hamlin started second and ran near the front of the field all afternoon. He finished seventh in both stages and was running inside the top 10 when the contact with Blaney occurred. It was close quarters between the two, who also had Kevin Harvick on the inside lane in a three-wide battle off Turn 4.

The tire went down a few laps later, sending Hamlin for a spin off Turn 2. He barely nudged the nose into the inside wall and made it to pit road before the fenders over a flat left-rear and right-front tire caused any damage.

Hamlin called it a ‘mediocre’ day and was a little disappointed in the performance. Fortunately, issues for many others throughout the day meant Hamlin’s wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

“I think we went a different direction with our car, and we weren’t just as fast as we were in previous mile-and-a-half races,” Hamlin said. “I thought we were kind of a third-to-fourth place car on the long run, seventh-to-eighth on the short run.

“Just weren’t ourselves today in that case and then obviously getting in two wrecks at the end didn’t help, but the fact that there was a lot of attrition and the fact that the team did a phenomenal job fixing the car got us back up to P-11.”