Denny Hamlin admitted he wasn’t aggressive enough at the end of the Bristol dirt race, but he wanted to race Joey Logano for the win cleanly.
“I should have just shoved him out,” Hamlin said. “When I had position on the bottom, I should have just moved up and got him in the dust and got rid of him. But I just wanted to pass him clean. I didn’t (move him), so I didn’t win.”
The end of the race came down to an overtime attempt, and a single-file one at that. NASCAR officials made that decision at lap 170 because of visibility issues due to excessive dust. Hamlin was on Logano’s bumper for the final restart, but instead of following the leader on the bottom into Turn 1, Hamlin went to the outside, hoping to power by that way.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver wouldn’t be drawn on how much the single-file restart affected his chances, but said his preference would have been to line up alongside Logano on the front row for the final restart.
“I had an opportunity to choose whether I was going to make a move on the high side or the low side,” Hamlin said. “I chose high, and the track was just too slick up there at the time. He didn’t get a very good restart. I was on him entering Turn 1. That tells me if I can start beside him, then I had an opportunity there to be ahead of him getting in (Turn) 1.
“But it is what it is. We all had to adapt. We knew after halfway or so when they changed it that was going to be the rule for the rest of the race. Those are the cards we’re dealt.”
Hamlin finished third to Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. When his move into Turn 1 didn’t work, instead getting into the marbles, Hamlin lost the runner-up spot to Stenhouse.
But Hamlin thought he had a shot at getting his first win of the season. Instead, he has now finished third or fourth in the last four straight races, and he leads the overall point standings. In Bristol, he had the second-best average running position of any driver (4.06) and finish third in both the stages and the race.
“Because I think me and the 22 [Logano] race differently,” Hamlin said when asked why he didn’t drive through Logano for the race win off the final restart. “I don’t have that mentality.”