Denny Hamlin wanted the win so badly that he had just one thought as he saw Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. make contact coming to the checkered flag at Martinsville Speedway.
“Crash harder,” Hamlin said. “Just crash harder. That’s all I was hoping.”
Logano escaped with the win and Hamlin grabbed second at the finish line, getting past Truex at the last minute. Hamlin was the highest-finishing non-playoff driver and was chomping at the bit for his first win of the season and his sixth overall at Martinsville.
“I was trying to get as close as I could,” Hamlin said. “Just took me so long to get around the 18 [Kyle Busch] and the 2 [Brad Keselowski]. Our car just would not take off on the short run, was so exceptionally good on the long run. Forty lap run at the end just was a killer for us.
“I don’t think I would do anything different. I mean, I rode behind the 18, trying to be respectful of him. Obviously, his situation, you don’t want to move a teammate out of the way, especially if he needs that one point when it comes down to the end. I knew we were fast enough to drive up there and pass those guys. … I just ran as hard as I could the last three laps to get as close to the front two as possible. I knew something would happen. I just wanted to be as close as I could, hopefully capitalize. Just a tenth away.”
Hamlin led on two different occasions Sunday afternoon for a total of 31 laps. He also won the first stage and finished second in the second stage.
Runner-up for the second time in four races, Dover and now Martinsville Speedway have been the No. 11 team’s best result of the season. Hamlin has not won since Darlington in Sept. 2017. With a shot at the win in front of him at Martinsville, Hamlin played it clean while moving toward the front.
“It stinks,” Hamlin said of the balance between racing for the win versus being respectful of the title contenders. “Ultimately the reason we lost that track position is we were letting teammates in. Ultimately that’s what we agreed upon. I would expect the same things from my teammates if I was in that situation, they were me, I was them, so.
“That part of it stinks. It’s twofold — you hope you’re the guy getting let in next time. We worked really well together as teammates. I thought it was a great team effort. Hoping one of our cars would get a win, but obviously it didn’t. We all had a good showing. Looks like the two Toyotas that are left obviously are in a good points position.”