Disappointment for Hamlin
“I thought we had it,” said Denny Hamlin, following the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday.
Hamlin was strong in the latter portion of the race at Homestead, and had the car to beat the three other championship eligible drivers. It was until a late race caution with 19 laps to go that defeated Hamlin. Darian Grubb, Hamlin’s crew chief decided to stay out on worn tires, and restart as the leader while Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman came down pit road for fresher tires.
Harvick pitted for 4 tires, while Newman pitted for 2. Logano had a disaster of a pit stop when the jack fell from underneath the car. He restarted 29th after entering pit road in the top five.
“I thought we could beat them on pit road,” said Hamlin after there was confusion between he, and Grubb on whether or not the No. 11 should pit. Hamlin didn’t pit, in which resulted in a seventh place finish, when fellow championship contender passed him for the last lead change of the race.
What could have been is the story for Hamlin. What if he pitted? More than likely if he happened to pit, he would have come off pit road first. The No. 11 FedEx pit crew is the best in the business. So why did Grubb decide to stay out?
Grubb, who made a similar call to the one on Sunday in which he made in 2011 that clinched the championship for Tony Stewart. "Disappointed in myself for making the call at the time, because now I can see and hindsight is 20/20," Grubb said. "But I think we had it wrapped up there before that."
Anything can happen in racing, but it sure looked like Hamlin was well on his way of winning his first career Sprint Cup trophy. Hamlin summed it up the disappointment well- “For the latter part of the race, we had the best car. Those cautions at the end, it kills us. We don't have a short run car. Then when we were on older tires there at the end, we were just a sitting duck.”
Hamlin said prior to Sunday that he had no pressure because the No.11 team has overachieved with the lack of horsepower and downforce that Joe Gibbs Racing and TRD have provided him this year. With only 1 win, 7 top five finishes and 18 top ten finishes, that statement is accurate. However, the new points system at least gave Hamlin a shot at the championship. If NASCAR had its old point system, Hamlin would have finished about 20th in the final standings.
Michael Jordan was even there to cheer on his friend. Hamlin has never lacks confidence, and often calls his shot. “Wish I could have one ring to his six. We’ll have to wait another year.”
Although Hamlin ultimately finished third in the seasons standings, over the course of the season he did not have a third place car but with this new format it looks as if a team can be slightly better than average and still get in to the championship race. So yeah, he overachieved.
"Things just didn't work out. If the race goes green, we very easily could be talking about this in victory lane.”