Hamlin struggles at Martinsville
Denny Hamlin didn’t receive the homecoming he had hoped for at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
The Virginia native entered the weekend third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, 20 points behind then-leader Brad Keselowski.
However, although he fought back from several setbacks in the race, Hamlin couldn’t overcome electrical issues.
“It’s going (expletive) haywire,” Hamlin radioed in a panic on Lap 375 of the 500. In 13 laps he dropped to 15th and off of the lead lap. By Lap 391, Hamlin said his gauges were black. Two circuits later, Hamlin lost power completely on the frontstretch, forcing NASCAR to call a caution to remove the No. 11 car from the track.
“The master switch — the bolt broke off of it and for whatever reason it shut the car off,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know — bad luck. I don’t know, it’s frustrating. You can’t put any blame on anyone on this.
“Just the little things that get us. I’ve been in these Chases for seven years and I’ve had my fair share of electrical issues and motor issues and things like that. All I can do is just drive my heart out and if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. We’ll have our time, it’s just our time is not now.”
With the exception of getting busted on pit road for speeding, Hamlin performed more than admirably. He qualified fifth and cycled to the lead twice for a total of 12 laps despite two costly pit-road speeding penalties on Laps 47 and 200.
After the first infraction, Hamlin battled back from 32nd to the lead in 111 laps. When he was busted again, Hamlin made up 27 positions in 146 laps. Still, there was no coming back from losing power.
Although Hamlin returned to action on Lap 422, he was 34 laps off the pace.
“Just disappointment,” Hamlin said. “Just to have to go through a day like that and it end like this is tough, especially on our best racetrack. Going through the adversity of speeding twice and still driving back to the front — it’s frustrating.
“What can you do? We broke a bolt on a master switch and it ended our Chase chances. We’ll try to turn the table and get a lot of wins. Definitely disappointing as far as that’s concerned.”
Hamlin finished 33rd and dropped to fifth in the points standings. He now trails Jimmie Johnson by 49 points. Hamlin, who led the points twice this season, has conceded his shot at this year’s title. Over the final three races, the driver says his objective is to “just have fun."
“That’s all I can do,” Hamlin added. “Just go out there and be relaxed and enjoy this championship battle that’s shaping up. It’s a shame we can’t be a part of it, but we’re going to try to work our way as far up in the points as we possibly can and just keep digging.”