TALLADEGA, Ala — Denny Hamlin knows that the Charlotte ROVAL next week isn’t a great spot to be going to if he needed a win to keep his championship hopes alive. He’s been vocal all season that turning left and right in a race isn’t one of Toyota’s strongsuits. It’s also why the last 2 weeks were so imperative to him and his season.
Texas and Talladega were races he had to build enough of a gap on the cutline in order to not have to sweat as much in Charlotte.
I’d say he’s done just that. Hamlin was 10th in Texas and 5th in Talladega to build a 18 point gap on the bubble. While his last win came at Charlotte (17 races ago) that was on the oval. This next trip is on the ROVAL.
“We accomplished what we were trying to do,” Hamlin said. “What other guys did, we couldn’t change that.
“Would I like to have more? Yes. Obviously we executed the day we wanted to. Better than what we started the day, we’ll take it.”
Even with a top 5, Hamlin was displeased with how you couldn’t ever get a 3rd lane going here with this car.
“Not much really,” Hamlin said on what more he needed today. “It’s so hard to pass. I know you’ve all heard that. It’s a train of two lines. You can’t run three-wide with this car. You got to just sit behind whoever is right there in front of you and hope you can push that line a little bit forward. Hopefully they switch the lanes, then you can leap forward.
“Yeah, that’s kind of what we got right now. I feel like we executed a pretty good day. Our goal going into the day was five stage points. If we got more than five in the first stage, we were going to punt in stage two, try to get a good finish. That’s what we did.
“Overall a good day. I was able to give Chase the push right there to get to the outside. I thought about should I go with him and force the 43 up. I always know I’ve got somebody coming with help behind me, McDowell.”
As far as why he didn’t go with him?
“Then I’d be in the middle,” Hamlin continued. “The risk wasn’t worth going back to 15th if I ended up getting stuck in the middle. To me, this is the three-race season that you have, you points race.”
Still, at Texas he had a car capable of a win but was spun by William Byron under caution late in the race while running 2nd. At Talladega, he was 2nd in Stage 1 to net him 9 stage points. It’s why he gained 3 points on where he entered the day going from +15 to +18 with 1 race left in the Round of 12.
If Hamlin can get out of this round, he has a great shot at another Championship 4 performance. He won the last playoff race in Las Vegas and is always good at Homestead.