The three-time Daytona 500 winner was not able to add to his Daytona 500 wins after a poor late-race strategy.
Denny Hamlin is of the opinion that he had a good opportunity to win the race until late. The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 driver, who led 6 laps in the race, decided to pit from a top-five place with just 23 laps to go.
“This race is just becoming more and more unpredictable every single year,” said Hamlin. “It’s so hard to pass in these Next Gen cars on superspeedways, the racing was two-by-two, so you just can’t go to the back of the pack at any point and come back, especially towards the end of the race.
“I came out from the last pitstop in 18th and I basically told Chris [Gabehart, crew chief] ‘we’re ****ed’ – I had nowhere to go. [Before that] I thought I was in the position I needed to be, I was seventh and first non-Ford. So the last pitstop cycle happens and we just… I think we messed up. A handful of Fords pitted, literally five, and then me and Truex pitted by ourselves. I think we ****ed up.
He was also not helped by the situation with his teammate, Martin Truex Jr. who had more gas than Hamlin and needed less time on the stop. While the idea was for them to exit the pits bumper to bumper, Truex exited early, costing Hamlin precious seconds. As a result, Hamlin ended up to the rear of the field.
“Truex had seven more laps of fuel than I did, so let’s say that’s a second and a half less than I need to pack my fuel cell full to get to the end. He came in behind me and we had to take a certain amount of fuel, let’s say it was five seconds of fuel.
“Truex only needed probably three seconds of fuel, so he comes off pit road two seconds ahead of me, and the time we lost not being bumper to bumper leaving the pit road, that is another two seconds of detriment – because we’re drafting as soon as we leave pit road. You can lose two seconds around that out-lap if you’re not bumper to bumper.
“Add that to the two seconds lost on pitlane, that took me from seventh or eighth to basically last. I was screwed at that point. That was a key, key moment.”
While it was a bad day for Hamlin in the pit stop, he did praise winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for his strategy in the pit stop, pitting with a lot of cars and linking up quicker.
Hamlin finished 17th in the race while Truex finished 15th.