After a seven-win season led Denny Hamlin to a berth in the NASCAR Cup Series championship round at Phoenix Raceway, the No. 11 team couldn’t seem to find its stride and fell short of the title.
“We were a little off handling, but overall car speed, we just didn’t have enough,” Hamlin explained after the race. “Our next best teammate was 10th, so as an organization we have got to get a little better, especially on the short tracks. It seems like we were a little bit off all year, and that was all it had, that’s for sure.
“I was pushing for everything I had. The FedEx Camry just didn’t quite have enough today, and we ended up fourth.”
Hamlin started fourth in the Series Finale 500 and was fast early on, battling with fellow title contender Brad Keselowski for the runner-up spot and finishing second in the opening stage.
But the No. 11 seemed to fall off as the afternoon went on, fading back from contention. Although the four championship drivers ran 1-2-3-4 nearly the entire race, Hamlin was consistently third or fourth of the quartet and never led a lap the entire afternoon.
“We just needed a little bit of speed and handling. Just a little bit every lap. It was so, so small,” he continued. “At times we were pretty good and maybe I had the fastest car, but it was just a few laps here and there. We just needed a little bit more. Obviously, this package, in particular, we weren’t great this year and this was one of our better runs with it, but it just wasn’t enough really.”
Throughout his 15th full-time season in 2020, Hamlin scored 21 top-10 finishes, 18 of those in the top five. His seven wins were the second-most in a single season during his career, and he had the most victories in 2020 of any driver outside of Kevin Harvick.
“No one has won more than we have over the last two years,” he said. “Daytona 500 two years in a row, the final four two years in a row. I’m pretty proud of what this team is doing and what we are building toward. Proud of the effort.
“We will come back and do it again next year. I’m looking forward to it. We will win as many races as we possibly can to get ourselves back to Phoenix again with another shot, but I’m proud of this whole Joe Gibbs Racing FedEx team for giving me cars that are capable of winning every week.”
Hamlin has ended up fourth in the standings the last two seasons with a combined 13 wins, 37 top fives and 47 top 10s.
About the author
Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.
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Shouldn’t have been even running for the championship. He and Gibbs had to cheat to get him in one of the final spots, but CRAPCAR chose to look the other way. How nice, what a way to lower the bar for your champion CRAPCAR.