Denny Hamlin said he “for sure” could have been dirtier battling Kevin Harvick for the NASCAR Cup Series win at New Hampshire, but that isn’t how he wanted to do things.
“When we were side by side through the center of (Turns) 1 and 2, I should have just drove straight, knocked him kind of up the groove, and he would have been in the (dirty) stuff, and it would have been over with,” said Hamlin. “But that’s not the way I want to do it.
“We’re two veteran guys; we know how to race these things clean and let’s just figure it out at the end. And he got the best of us.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said he has a lot of respect for Harvick and that’s why he kept things as clean as he could. But Hamlin still needed to make a move to try and win for the third time this season, and he did give Harvick a nice knock in the bumper going into Turn 1.
Things just didn’t pan out as Hamlin hoped at the other end of the speedway.
“I just didn’t execute well,” Hamlin said.
Midway down the backstretch, the pair engaged in a drag race before Hamlin tucked back behind Harvick going into Turn 3. Harvick took the bottom — not wanting Hamlin to get underneath him — while Hamlin charged around the outside. Hamlin had the run, but Harvick admitted he “put a wheel on him.” Sideways off the corner, Hamling slotted in behind Harvick coming to the checkered flag.
“What I wanted to do was get position on the bottom, and then, stupid me, I backed off once I got there,” said Hamlin of his coming off Turn 2 and powering down the backstretch. “So, I don’t know. I needed to be more decisive about what move I wanted to make there.
“We gave ourselves a shot to win — we were really fast at the end of the race. But they made a great call to get that track position, and we couldn’t overcome the aero at the end.”
Hamlin led the second-most laps of any driver Sunday afternoon at 113 in the Foxwoods Resort 301. And he quickly came from the rear of the field in a backup car after wrecking his primary in practice on Friday.
“I started getting position, I started getting to his door, and he turned right … and yeah, it was over after that,” Hamlin continued, talking about the finish.
“I would have liked to have drag raced side by side to the line there. I thought that’s what was gonna happen because I had a huge run on the outside of him off Turn 4. But he didn’t want to find out. He ended that discussion pretty early.”