Denny Hamlin goes into the first NASCAR off weekend 2-for-6 in clean races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Clean on pit road, that is.
Monday’s race at Martinsville Speedway was only the second time this year Hamlin did not have an issue on pit road. The other race occurred last month at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Pit road has been Hamlin’s Achilles’ heel in recent years, with speeding the biggest issue. Hamlin has repeatedly found himself putting in additional work throughout a race to salvage the day after serving his penalty.
In 2016, Hamlin led the series in speeding penalties with 10. Last year, he had five.
Twice already this year Hamlin has been busted for speeding at Daytona and Las Vegas. He was also penalized one lap in the Daytona 500 for pitting outside the box when he overshot his stall.
Hamlin finished third at Daytona. However, he did not have the same luck in Las Vegas and finished 17th.
“I’ve very conscious and very frustrated,” Hamlin said of his pit road miscues. “Just learn from them, and it is a constant learning thing, and I’ve had a little bit of everything penalty-wise this year on pit road. It’s really hurt us in stages more so than it has our finishing position.
“We’ve obviously rebounded and finished in the top six all but one race and the one race we didn’t, we ended up going two laps down because of that speeding penalty because it was under green [flag conditions], which is a quadruple penalty.”
A fourth-place finish at ISM Raceway seemed unlikely after Hamlin parked too close to his pit stall. Doing so made it difficult for the jackman to lift the left side of his Toyota, and the lost time saw Hamlin slide outside the top 25.
In Fontana, Hamlin rebounded for a sixth-place finish after overshooting his pit stall. Taking the time to back up, Hamlin lost 10 positions on pit road.
Going forward, Hamlin again reiterated the need to learn from his mistakes.
“I just have to learn, and I’m definitely not pushing it as hard as I was on pit road,” he said. “We’ve had two separate incidents of me getting too close to the left side of the wall by sliding the tires. I think it’s just early season gremlins that I’m having, getting back acclimated to pit road and feeling each brake settings for each track out.
“Usually it’s mistakes on the track that I’m making early in the season, not on pit road. And so, I feel like I can fix those a little bit easier.”