The Championship 4 is set once again in the NASCAR Cup Series, and for the second straight season, it won’t include Denny Hamlin. After a great regular season and a strong start to his 2023 playoff run, Hamlin came up just eight points short of William Byron, who grabbed the last spot.
It’s not like he wasn’t a factor in the race, though. Hamlin was dominant, as per usual, during the opening stages of the race. Hamlin led the most laps in Sunday’s (Oct. 29) Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway at 156. He also finished runner-up to winner Ryan Blaney, whom he had multiple epic battles with over several consecutive restarts. It just wasn’t enough for the three-time Daytona 500 winner to leapfrog Byron at the end.
A somber, but positive Hamlin met with media members and expressed that how he felt his team did their absolute best to make it work.
“Ultimately, our fate was sealed when our steering belt came off last week,” Hamlin said. “On a day when we needed to have a phenomenal day, we did. It just wasn’t quite good enough because we were in such a hole from last week.
He later took to social media to express his gratitude to his fan base this past season.
Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, echoed his driver’s outlook as he stopped and chatted with Frontstretch following the race.
“Today was a great day. We scored 53 points today, won one stage, finished second in the other…clearly the two best cars were the 12 and the 11, and the 12 was just a little bit better. We had everyone else covered and came up one spot short.”
As Hamlin and the team sort through another the events of another unfortunate Round of 8 heartbreak (sans a ‘Hail Melon’), one has to wonder what’s next for the No. 11 team as they look ahead to 2024.
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