Denny Hamlin didn’t have a flashy day at Pocono. He didn’t win the race, and only led a single lap. But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver needed the quiet day he had.
For the first time in five races, Hamlin kept his No. 11 Toyota clean and finished among the leaders. A sixth-place result is Hamlin’s best since he ran inside the top 10 back at Richmond in April.
“It was a good run,” Hamlin said in his TV interview. “We didn’t hit the wall — that’s a first in about a month. Didn’t blow a tire — that’s about the first in a month. But, yeah, the positives are we got a decent finish out of it there. Had a pretty good car in clean air, though I thought the 18 (JGR teammate Kyle Busch) definitely was substantially better. The 4 (Kevin Harvick) was pretty good as well, but I thought we could hold our own there.
“We were running third and got four tires there at the end, and really track position was just such a huge deal,” Hamlin went on. “Didn’t see many cars out there passing today and we were one of them. You got stuck behind guys, it didn’t matter how old their tires were in front of you, you just stuck behind them. We were one of those guys. Then had an inside lane restart at the end that cost us a spot or two.”
Paired with new crew chief Chris Gabehart, Hamlin got off to the best start of his career, winning two of the first nine races and finishing no lower than 11th. Then the wheels came off, with Hamlin explaining the team thought they’d have some issues at certain tracks:
- Talladega: 36th after a crash.
- Dover: 21st after struggling and having a tire issue.
- Kansas: 16th, also having a tire issue.
- Charlotte: 17th after crashing on the last lap.
“Overall, a decent day,” Hamlin continued after the Pocono 400. “At least back on the train of a good run and not tearing our car up; so we’ll build from there and go to Michigan next week.”