Denny Hamlin still left frustrated after battling through adversity

Published Mar. 20, 2016 6:45 p.m. ET

Denny Hamlin battled back from a seemingly incredible amount of adversity to finish third in Sunday's Auto Club 400.

His up-and-down day included two penalties -- one a pit-road speeding infraction on Lap 84 that dropped him to 28th -- as well as issues with his radio that limited communication with his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing teammates at 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

But after his pit crew helped him win the race off pit road prior to the final green-white-checkered finish with a remarkable 10.6-second stop for four tires and fuel, Hamlin was hardly satisfied with what ultimately became his second consecutive third-place finish.

Hamlin was forced to settle for third when eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson and second-place finisher Kevin Harvick surged ahead of him on the final restart.

"It's a disappointing third, I can tell you that, but two penalties, radio changes, just a lot of mistakes on my part early on and (still) gave us ourselves a shot a there," Hamlin said.

But on the final green-white-checkered restart, with Hamlin lining up as the leader and Joey Logano lined up behind him, Logano was unable to provide Hamlin with the push he needed to get out in front of Harvick and Johnson.

And once those two were gone, they stayed gone, leaving Hamlin with the bittersweet finish.


"The 22 (of Logano), it was the one time he time didn't get a good restart," said Hamlin, who won the season-opening Daytona 500. "We didn't have that push there and that hurt us. I thought going early in the zone was probably the thing to do -- in hindsight maybe (we should have gone) later, but who knows?

"Those two (Johnson and Harvick) linked up on the bottom and there's really nothing we could have done at that point."

Then Hamlin summed up the hectic afternoon.

"A good day," he said. "Just not a great day."


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