Continued pit road miscues put Denny Hamlin where he didn’t want to be Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. And when the going got tough on a restart, Hamlin ended up wrecked with multiple others.
First penalized for speeding and later for an uncontrolled tire, Hamlin was still making up ground when the third stage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 began. Fighting for position, Hamlin got loose underneath Aric Almirola in Turn 3. The No. 11 Toyota wiggled and hit Almirola in the left rear before spinning and collecting Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson.
Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and others are done for the day after this big crash in Texas. pic.twitter.com/Xb3RMVGEoJ
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 8, 2018
“It all started with me speeding off pit road,” said Hamlin. “I shouldn’t have been in that position, but the 18 [Kyle Busch] was falling back there and I made a move to the inside and everyone is fighting for the bottom. I was obviously running the bottom lane, the 10 [Almirola] tried to squeeze and I realized that he was going to come down and I got out of the gas, and I got loose underneath him.”
Others collected in the melee were Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Michael McDowell. NASCAR briefly red-flagged the race for cleanup.
Almirola said the accident was the result of everyone wanting to be on the bottom because of a sketchy second and third groove with Texas being newly repaved. Keselowski pointed to the cars not being aerodynamically stable enough to run side by side.
Johnson first drove into the side of Hamlin and then slid down the track and hit the tire barriers head-on. He wasn’t injured but the wreck will result in his third finish outside the top 20.
“I knew where his arc was taking him and I knew that I was in trouble in the outside lane and going to get into him,” said Johnson. “Then the crash just kind of continued from there. So, unfortunate circumstances, but a lot to build on from this weekend. A strong Friday, a fantastic Saturday [when he was fastest in practice] and then not the best Sunday.
“We had a lot of different things work against us today, but we are getting closer each and every week and I’m really proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. We’ll get back to our winning ways soon.”
Hamlin has now had pit road problems of various kinds in five of the year’s seven races.
“It’s my responsibility to keep the car under me, but we were just in such tight quarters there that it was nearly impossible to do,” Hamlin said of the wreck. “It all starts with me at the beginning of the race, it’s my fault and I hate it for this race team. We had a car that I thought was very capable of winning this race and unfortunately, we’re back here [in the garage].”