Denny Hamlin secured his spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 with a 24th-place finish Sunday evening at Martinsville Speedway – after coming close to clinching the berth with a win.
Victory #3 of the year was in Hamlin’s sights in the closing laps of the penultimate race of the season, as he led the field around the paperclip-shaped track with six laps to go. But after multiple laps of Alex Bowman trying unsuccessfully to make an inside pass on the FedEx Ground Toyota, Bowman finally shoved his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet under the left rear of Hamlin’s car and spun the #11 out of the lead.
Bowman went on to win the race. Hamlin, after leading 103 laps, finished 24th. But the FedEx Racing driver’s result was enough to advance to the Championship 4, the four drivers who will compete for the Cup trophy next Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
The FedEx Ground Toyota had been strong for the entire 501-lap race on the half-mile oval. Hamlin lined up third for the start of the event but had to drop to the back before the green flag due to pre-race technical infractions. Despite starting at the rear of the field, and a mid-race speeding penalty that also set him back, Hamlin kept finding his way back to the front. He had taken the lead for the third time on Lap 479 and stayed there until Bowman spun him out on Lap 493.
“Obviously, I’m happy we are moving on with a chance to compete for the championship in Phoenix next week, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed about today,” Hamlin said. “We were just a few laps away from what would’ve been a big win for our FedEx team, and we wound up 24th instead. But now our focus is on next week for the biggest race of the year.”
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Hamlin will compete for the championship title Sunday, Nov. 7, at the one-mile oval in Phoenix. The top finisher among the four drivers will take the trophy as 2021 Champion.
FedEx Racing PR