Race Weekend Central

Denny Hamlin Wipes Out with Texas Win in Sight

FORT WORTH, Texas — Cars losing control in turns 3 and 4 was a frequent occurrence in Sunday’s (April 14) EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway, and the treacherous set of turns bit Denny Hamlin just as he was going for the win.

In a NASCAR Cup Series race that featured a record-tying 16 cautions at Texas and an all-time record of cautions in a 400-mile race on 1.5-mile track, Hamlin looked to be in a good spot once he passed Chase Elliott for the lead with 22 laps to go.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver kept Elliott and third-place Brad Keselowski at a distance, until a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spin with 13 laps to go set up a stop-and-go finish that took two overtimes and four cautions to finally reach the checkered flag.

Hamlin lost control of the lead to Elliott on lap 260 when Kyle Larson and Zane Smith wrecked. The two were running side-by-side for the lead when the yellow came out, and Elliott just barely took control of the race from that point on.

The next restart was going to be a two-lap shootout, and this time it was Elliott on the inside and Hamlin on the outside. The two were neck-and-neck down the backstretch until Hamlin got loose, lost control and backed his No. 11 into the turn 4 wall.

The damage was done from there, and Hamlin was only able to limp his crippled car to a 30th-place finish as the second-to-last car on the lead lap.

See also
Chase Elliott Snaps 42-Race Winless Streak, Wins in Texas

“It just got loose up in turn 3,” Hamlin said. “It’s something I’ve been fighting really kind of all day. And then, when you got to push it the most on a green-white-checkered, I knew that the likely scenario is I wasn’t going to make it out of the corner with as much speed as I was carrying. But it’s trying to go for the win, so I just got loose and spun out.

“We just couldn’t get it going [on the top lane]. We had to be on the bottom, and we were in a good spot to win. We just had so many untimely cautions when we were out front and then that one where we lost control [of the race], that certainly was not helpful.

“We were side-by-side obviously, but I was on the inside — where I needed to be — going in to turn 3. He wasn’t that strong up in the high lane in [turns] 3 and 4 either, so I was in a really good spot there, even though he was beside me. I didn’t need that caution, for sure, but that’s what you have here at Texas: a lot of cautions. But you just got to navigate around it and do the best you can.”

Elliott had washed up the track and into Hamlin’s line in turns 3 & 4, but Hamlin didn’t say much of it, as they were both going for the lead in the closing laps.

“I know that [Elliott] washed up [the track], but I didn’t think that it was out of bounds by any means, especially racing for the win there,” Hamlin said. “So I think [the spin] was just a mix between a bad aero spot and a car that just never really ran good up in the high line all day.”

Elliott went on to win in double overtime, having just enough fuel to run a Polish victory lap in honor of the late Alan Kulwicki, as Elliott’s win marked the first time that Hooters had returned to victory lane in the NASCAR Cup Series since Kulwicki’s final win at Pocono Raceway in 1992.

See also
Xfinity Breakdown: Sam Mayer Busts Out of Slump at Texas

The win also broke a 42-race winless streak for Elliott, and Sunday marked the 19th win of his Cup career. After just missing out on a win the prior week at Martinsville Speedway, Hamlin certainly thinks that the No. 9 team has found its mojo once again.

“I think they’ve slowly but surely gotten better, really as the season’s gone on,” Hamlin said. “It seems like there’s a couple of organizations dominating right now, and he’s part of one of them. And this is certainly what he’s been capable of for a long time. He’s certainly a threat for sure, because he’s done it before.”

Texas also marked the seventh straight Cup race that was won by either Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing. The series will head to Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday (April 21), and both teams will be vying to keep their streaks of dominance intact.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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5 Comments
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Bobby DK

As John Mcclane would say” Yippee Ki Yay ……”

Bill B

The best moment of the race,

Shayne

I didn’t think these new race cars still had a choke lever.

wildcatsfan2016

I stood up and cheered!

DoninAjax

The results for the event show 16 cautions for 72 laps. We all know that it should be 16 cautions for 88 laps because NA$CAR does not count the lap that the caution comes out on as a caution lap. The caution for Hamlin’s spin, according to NA$CAR, came out on lap 267. That was the last scheduled lap and should have ended the event and meant no GWCs. Makes sense to no one but NA$CAR.

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