Denny Hamlin finished fifth with a car he felt could have finished third, but pit road issues reared their ugly head.
On Lap 265 of today’s STP 500 at Martinsville, Hamlin was put to the rear of the field due to an “uncontrolled right rear tire” which had gotten away from a crewman during a Stage 3 stop. The Toyota driver had been well inside the top 10 at the time after finish fourth and third in the first two stages.
“We’ve got to get better,” Hamlin said of the pit road drama. “We know that. We’re struggling a little bit right now for sure, but it’s a team thing. Last week I got a speeding penalty, so it all equals out. If you’re not going to be the best car, you have to execute perfectly.
“The best car didn’t falter [today], so it wouldn’t have made a difference either way, but [the error] certainly cost us maybe one or two spots. Nothing to hang our heads about, though. Overall a good day.”
After starting the season with a win in the Daytona 500, Hamlin has now had back-to-back weeks of pit road penalties. Still, he and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team have salvaged positive results and are now on a streak of four straight top-10 finishes.
Brad Keselowski dominated Sunday afternoon, leading 446 of 500 laps on route to victory. Chase Elliott finished second with 49 laps led. Hamlin, a five-time Martinsville winner, felt he was the next guy in line.
“It was just one of those days where one guy hit it and was just a little bit better than everyone else, and everyone else was chasing,” said Hamlin. “We’ve had a lot of races where we had to battle from the back of the pack. Another top five [here] and overall a steady day.”