Denny Hamlin continues to be the class of the NASCAR Cup Series field but admits there’s frustration in wins slipping away.
For the second consecutive week, Hamlin led the most laps in a Cup Series race but was passed again in the closing laps. Sunday afternoon at Richmond, Hamlin won both stages and led 207 of 400 laps. He’s been the point leader since the second week of the season and has eight top-five finishes in nine races.
“It’s frustrating for sure,” Hamlin said. “But honestly, I’d rather be where I am than Alex Bowman. I don’t care that he’s got a win; we’re smashing everyone. I’d still rather be where I’m at.”
Through nine races, Hamlin’s worse finish is 11th at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In all, he’s now led 694 laps and continues to have the best average finish in the series at 4.2. For comparison, Joey Logano is second on that list with an 8.3 average finish.
Despite the frustration, though, Hamlin said it isn’t going to change his attitude or work ethic. The No. 11 team continues to bring fast race cars to the racetrack, and his pit crew once again showed their worth on pit road by getting him the lead ahead of the final restart.
“You’re a competitor, you want to win, especially when you have a great opportunity to win, but it just didn’t happen,” said Hamlin. “I just got to digest it, look at it and see where we could have been a little bit better. But ultimately, there’s nothing I can do. My effort was as high as it could be. There’s nothing that’s glaring that I feel like I could have or should have done different.
“But maybe there is. I’ll go back and look at it, but it just seemed like the 48 had it gripped up there for a couple of laps.”
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Hamlin controlled the final restart and chose the inside lane. While he cleared Joey Logano, who restarted outside, and Bowman, who restarted behind him, Bowman got a charge the next lap around. Bowman made the winning pass on lap 391.
“We just didn’t take off very good there,” Hamlin said. “Definitely was the worse that our car took off after a restart. The 48, I’m guessing, his tires pumped up and he was able to take off there, get the lead, and then build a lead big enough I didn’t have enough time to get back to him.”
Hamlin leads the point standings by 81 over teammate Martin Truex Jr.