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Denny Hamlin details decisive restart with Chase Elliott at NASCAR Texas

How the timing of a caution ultimately changed his race

NASCAR: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400
Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway ended under caution but the margin of victory was arguably 0.002.

That was the distance from Chase Elliott to Denny Hamlin when the caution came out with seven laps to go. Hamlin was the control car but Elliott was just ahead at the last scoring loop crossed after Kyle Larson went around to trigger the caution.

That flipped the dynamic with Elliott free to choose the bottom and Hamlin having to take the outside for the ensuing restart.

“I thought that we had clear sailing,” Hamlin said on Monday during his Actions Detrimental podcast about driving way before the caution. “I mean, the field — you worry about cautions right after a caution, but we had 15, 20 laps or so and I passed Chase back for the lead.

“He got me on the restart, I think because I was just being a little timid. ‘Don’t get loose under him, don’t make a mistake,’ so he took the lead on the restart. … I did [think I could pass him after the restart] if they didn’t run so many fucking laps under caution.

“Like, I think that caution happened and there was like eight or nine laps to go and I’m like ‘Well shit.’ … If he clears me, if he controls the restart and he clears me, if I have 2 or 3 laps, I will get back around him. I mean, that’s my irrational confidence but that’s what I think will happen.”

Hamlin was frustrated that so many laps were run under caution, and in real time, even shared frustrations with crew chief Chris Gabehart over what race control was doing.

On the restart, Elliott pushed up the track in Turn 4, ever so slightly and Hamlin pinched to get the best drive off but he crossed those treacherous bumps that bit so many throughout the race and went around.

“Yeah, just got loose in Turn 3,” Hamlin said after the race. “It’s something that I had been fighting all day. When you have to push it most – on a great-white checkered – I knew [what] the likely scenario [was]. That was that I wasn’t going to make it out of the corner with how much speed that I was carrying. Trying to go for the win with our Yahoo Camry – got loose and spun out.”

On Actions Detrimental, Hamlin says the end result was just a reflection of not being the control car.

“When we go into a Green-White-Checkered, it’s all about who clears first,” Hamlin said. “Whoever clears first is going to win the race. There’s just not enough time to build momentum back to get back around.

“So, that’s why my sense of urgency was to mat it in Turns 3 and 4 and try to stay beside him but yeah, damn it, I’m so frustrated because every single week, we’re like going to win. We’re so fast every week. I think we’ve led every race this season and not like bullshit led, we’re leading laps. Like legitimately, we drive up there and we’re contending.”

So he ultimately took the positives away from the defeat.

“So, this is a really, really fun year for me so far because every week I know that I’m one of the top three guys in terms of speed,” Hamlin added. “But damn, two weeks in a row of not getting the finish we deserved. And this one’s on me for sure.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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