Denny Hamlin overcomes parade of errors to win at Texas Motor Speedway
FORT WORTH, Texas — Denny Hamlin had two pit road penalties, he once missed the entrance to the pits, and he ran out of gas.
And he won?
“I know, it’s amazing,” Hamlin said after taking the checkered flag in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup O’Reilly 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
“It was a very rough day,” added his crew chief, Chris Gabehart.
Winless a year ago, Hamlin won for the second time in the season’s first seven races on an afternoon when it seemed like he and his team couldn’t get out of their own way.
He was called for speeding entering pit road, but recovered to win the second stage of the race. On the pit stop that followed, his team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire.
“I was just beating my head against the steering wheel, thinking, man, we’re gonna finish bad with a really fast car.”
With well-timed strategy calls from Gabehart, the pit stops of other drivers cycled through in Hamlin's favor. He moved to the front with 12 laps to go and second-place Clint Bowyer was never able to threaten him.
With new aerodynamics packages on the Cup cars designed to keep the racing tighter, and the addition of a traction compound on the outer grooves of the track at TMS, Hamlin’s miscues never turned out to be catastrophic. And his fast car ultimately prevailed.
“We had a great car all day,” Hamlin said. “Just a bunch of hiccups in the middle of it.”
Hamlin, who also won the season-opening Daytona 500, remained in second place in Cup points, behind teammate Kyle Busch, with Kevin Harvick in third.
Four drivers from two organizations have accounted for the seven wins this season with Joe Gibbs Racing earning its fourth on Sunday to go with three by Team Penske.
“Some of those others are knocking on the door,” Gibbs said. “Today, some of those teams had chances, but they just made mistakes.
“I hope we can find a way to stay up there. But in pro sports, we all know the hardest thing is to stay up there week-in and week-out, because we’ve got so many really good cars, many good owners, good competitors.
“That will be the key, to stay up there. That’s our challenge.”
Texas Motor Speedway notebook, Page B4