As disappointed as Denny Hamlin was to finish fourth in the championship fight Sunday afternoon, he was also struck by reality.
“Our organization hasn’t really been very good on the short tracks this year,” said Hamlin. “It’s kind of a learning period for us. But we put our best effort forward. We had no mistakes today, did everything I possibly could, just I had nothing there to go.
“I think with our best teammate running 10th (Martin Truex Jr.) and the other guys having two teammates ahead of our best one, just our car didn’t have enough speed to go out there and compete.”
Hamlin was the worst of the playoff contenders, finishing fourth. And he was the only one of the four who did not lead a lap at Phoenix Raceway while Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski combined to lead 294 of the race’s 312 laps.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 8, 2020
When the day started, Hamlin kept pace with Logano, who was the dominant car. Hamlin was third at the competition caution on lap 30 and second at the end of Stage 1 on lap 75. He was fourth at the end of the second stage on lap 190.
“Up until the last stage, the leader was always 12 lengths in front of me, but there was always a car or two between,” said Hamlin. “I thought early on in the race, we were pretty good. I think we caught the 22 (Logano) late in the run, but then I saw the 9 coming through the field, and then I saw even on the long run he was reeling us all in. We just didn’t have enough car potential for us. Our balance was not bad, maybe a little bit off, but just not enough in reserve.
“I think Penske and Hendrick both had two teammates inside the top 10 before we even got to our next best two other teammates. Our organization has got to get a little bit better on these types of tracks, and especially with it going to be the deciding factor in the championship.
“We’ve just overall got to get a little better. I knew for me probably around lap 200 that we needed some special circumstances to kind of go our way.”