Hamlin fails to advance after problem with roof hatch, late wreck
Denny Hamlin entered Sunday’s Chase elimination race at Talladega second in the championship standings with a 12-point advantage over the eighth-place cutoff.
However, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had major issues just past the 80-lap mark of the CampingWorld.com 500, placing his chances of advancing in the Chase in serious jeopardy. He ultimately finished 37th and failed to advance to the next round of the Chase after being caught up in a wreck on the final restart when Kevin Harvick made contact with Trevor Bayne, triggering a multi-car wreck that collected that Hamlin.
Hamlin was racing hard in the pack early in the race when the roof hatch on the No. 11 Toyota came loose, raising in the air, allowing air flow in the car and causing safety concerns. Hamlin was forced to pit road under green on Lap 86, where the team led by crew chief Dave Rogers quickly put tape on the hatch and sent him back on the track.
The repair did not hold, however, as the hatch once again came loose. Rogers called his driver back to pit road on Lap 93, where the team added multiple pieces of large tape on the roof hatch before sending him back on the track again.
“I don’t know what broke or whatever," Hamlin said. "It just peeled up. I guess what’s frustrating is they didn’t tell us we had to, but we came in and fixed it, we didn’t get it fixed, we tried to come in again and get it fixed, didn’t fix it and went a bunch of laps down. It’s tough. We’ll just move on to next year.”
The issue dropped Hamlin to 39th, two laps down to the race leaders. It also dropped Hamlin nearer to the Chase cutoff as the race moved past the halfway mark.
Teams are not required to run the roof hatch, but many teams do so at the superspeedway events of Talladega and Daytona. The hatch allows drivers another way to exit the car in the case of a wreck.