Skip to main content

What factored into Denny Hamlin losing the NASCAR race at Martinsville

The No. 11 team made a hail mary play before the final restart

NASCAR: Cup Practice & Qualifying
Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Denny Hamlin lost the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway on pit road and they tried a Hail Mary there an hour later to get it back.

But really, the thing that obstructed them the most, manifested itself before the race even started. Hamlin came down pit road with everyone else for their tachometer check and Hamlin reported something draggy with their engine on pit entry.

It was subtle but on an afternoon where passes were extremely hard to come by, and track position gained and lost on pit road, that thing was enough to cost them the lead during green flag pit stops on Lap 299.

Overall, it was a comparable stop to the other contenders, but Hamlin lost the lead to William Byron, who undercut them by two laps but also Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson to cycle out fourth. Hamlin immediately complained of the same thing he did during the pit road speed check.

“I’m not sure what that was,” Hamlin told Sportsnaut after the race. “We had some engine mapping issues coming to pit road that really slowed down how well I did on pit road. So, we’ll look into that but I’m not really sure who pitted when or who gained an advantage to break it down.”

All told, Hamlin spent the fourth shortest time on pit road behind Byron, Elliott and Larson, and combined with the undercuts, couldn’t overcome it.

Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 crew chief confirmed that there was some kind of issue.

“Yeah, it was bucking really bad on pit road all day and we’ve had some of those issues here in the past but this was by far the worst,” Gabehart said. “His pit road speed was probably subpar by a good bit, and the data looked like it was, and then the pit crew had a bit of a slower stop than the Hendrick guys, who nailed it.

“We came one lap later that those guys too and as the leader with a two second lead, you’re kind of a sitting duck because we were willing to give them one lap and if everything worked out at the end, we should have came out barely in front but we didn’t.”

Hamlin was fourth at the final caution with four laps to go but was called down pit road because they just wanted to see if they could make something happen.

“We have two wins, were going to have to restart fourth there,” Gabehart said. “I told Denny, if no one in front of you pits, which we’d restart fourth, pit and try to make something happen because fourth or fifth is no different to us than 10th or 11th since we have two wins.”

They finished 11th.

“I hate to make the wrong decision but that was more emotionally driven and trying to make something happen because everyone knows tires aren’t worth anything at Martinsville now; we’re split stinting green flag runs now at Martinsville and that’s asinine, truthfully, but nevertheless that’s the box we were in and trying to make something happen at the end.”

Mentioned in this article:

More About: