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Hamlin Falls Short at Richmond After Bad Late Restart


(Photo: Mitchell Richtmyre | The Podium Finish)

RICHMOND, Va. — Denny Hamlin admitted to making a series of mistakes on a restart with three laps to go that ended his chances of back-to-back wins and resulted in a runner-up finish at Richmond Raceway.

Hamlin trailed eventual winner Chris Buescher by several seconds as the laps ticked down in Sunday’s Cook Out 400. He needed a caution, but to that point, the only two stoppages in the race came at the ends of the two stages.

However, with 10 laps to go, Noah Gragson spun Daniel Suarez exiting Turn 4 to bring out a yellow and set up a dash to the finish.

The driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing chose the high line on the restart but spun his tires. He got a helpful shove from former teammate Kyle Busch into the corner and stayed within reach of Buescher through Turn 4. Hamlin missed the corner diving back into Turn 1 and washed up the track, ending his chances of reeling in Buescher.

“The whole last couple laps were not good on my end,” Hamlin explained after the race. “I got a bad restart. I spun them coming to the green. Kyle (Busch) actually gave me a really good push down the front straightaway to get me going. I got great run through (Turns) 1 and 2. I just needed to be beside him. I had to recover too much ground from what I lost on the front stretch. Almost got to the outside, and then on turn four, almost got to the outside again, and then in turn one, I was like I’m just going to ship it in there and try to get to the outside one more time and I just carried way too much speed and locked up the left front tires.”

(Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

Hamlin had top-five speed all day but surrendered some of his track position with a unique strategy in Stage 2. Crew chief Chris Gabehardt elected to have Hamlin pit just once in the 160-lap Stage 2 while most other cars pitted twice. However, he pitted twice under green during Stage 3, which was the same length. He earned finishes of third and fifth in the first two stages, respectively.

The 42-year-old from nearby Chesterfield spent most of the afternoon racing around his two 23XI Racing cars, both of which finished outside the top 10 because of pit road issues, and the two RFK Racing cars. Buescher snagged his second win in as many seasons for RFK.

“Happy for Chris [Buescher], that team really deserved it too,” Hamlin said. “It was going to be luck for us to get a caution to get a second chance to go at him there. They deserved it. RFK, hats off to them. I know how hard they’ve worked to get to this point.”

Though it ended up as no harm, no foul, Hamlin had a minor run-in with Kyle Larson after last week’s incident in the closing laps at Pocono. Larson, who struggled all day and finished 19th, passed Hamlin while battling to get back on the lead lap by using his bumper to move him up the track.

Hamlin said that he didn’t take any offense to it.

“I think he was having a frustrating day. I understand that. It’s all good,” he said.

Hamlin’s strong day allowed him to leapfrog William Byron for second in points. He trails teammate Martin Truex Jr. by 43 with four races remaining in the regular season.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, August 6. The race is set for 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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