Denny Hamlin qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 with two strong stage finishes and an 11th-place finish in the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday evening. Martin Truex Jr. led over 100 laps and was in position to win his way into the Championship 4 before a late-race pit stop for a loose right-front wheel ended his chance to score the victory.
Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Race 35 of 36 – 500 miles, 263 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, Chase Elliott*
2nd, Ryan Blaney*
3rd, Joey Logano*
4th, Brad Keselowski*
5th, Kurt Busch*
9th, KYLE BUSCH
11th, DENNY HAMLIN
12th, ERIK JONES
15th, CHRISTOPHER BELL
22nd, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
27th, DANIEL SUÁREZ
29th, TIMMY HILL
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Shipathon Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 11th
What was the closing laps of that race like?
“It was tough. Our car was fading a little bit. I was also getting into some spots where I was getting roughed up by some teammates, not really ours, just some of the guys that are in the battle. I didn’t even want to be a part of it, so I would just get out of it and then I put myself in an interesting spot where the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was going for it a little bit and we were very fortunate he didn’t go for it any further than he did. We did just enough. That’s what we needed to do – is do enough to make it to Phoenix and give ourselves a shot at the championship. This FedEx team definitely deserves to be in the top four and glad that we are able to give it a shot next week.”
Handicap your chances next week?
“I think we can win any given week for sure. The short tracks haven’t been great for us all year, but you just never know. Last year, we went there and nearly lapped the field, so who knows how it’s going to turn out. One race, winner take all, you never know.”
How stressful were the last 100 laps with the points getting so close?
“I think we were in most of the time. Just lost the handling there as soon as it went night. We were not very good. A lot of that too, I got up into sixth or seventh and some guys teammates were kind of rubbing up against you and it’s like, ‘yeah, I don’t want to cut a tire,’ so I backed out of that. Then we just fell to a spot that was a little more open. Proud of this whole FedEx Shipathon Toyota team. I feel bad for Kevin (Harvick), they probably deserve better than that. It’s just the format, I guess. Everything you do for eight innings doesn’t matter if you don’t have a great ninth inning. It’s just tough to see. I really wish we were going to race those guys next week. It will be a tough battle with those other three that we’re going to have to race. We’re definitely going to have to step up our short track program.”
Are you surprised the 4 team isn’t in the Championship 4 next week?
“I think they deserve to be in. They have nine wins. There’s not a person on this planet that would say they aren’t a top-four team. We wanted to create a Game 7 moment, so this is what you get. If you have a bad race or two in a three-race series, you’re out. We’re very fortunate with our FedEx team to be able to lean on all the work that we did in the regular season to get Playoff points and win the most stages throughout the season than anyone else. We’re optimistic, we’ll see.”
How do you feel about Phoenix?
“It’s an entirely different ballgame now. It really is. The aerodynamic package is a lot different. There’re no similarities that you can really draw to it. You just never know. Obviously, we’re going to be ready and we’re going to be prepared and hopefully we’ll go out there and show what we’ve got.”
Toyota Racing PR