RICHMOND, Va. – Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Speedway almost proved to be a great homecoming for Chesterfield, VA product, Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was hungry to deliver the organization with its first win of the season.
The FedEx Ground Toyota led a total of 59 laps on three separate occasions but was unable to secure the victory after late-race cautions and varying pit strategies affected the running order.
On the last restart, Hamlin was caught behind several cars that didn’t pit and was stuck in fourth place with nowhere to go. Once he finally worked his way through the traffic he was able to climb into the third position, his eventual finishing position.
“We just didn’t have the speed that the other cars had. We optimized our day, it’s the best we could do and we finished right where we should have”, Hamlin said.
Throughout the race, Hamlin seemed to have the car to beat on the restarts, after tremendous pit stops gave him the track position needed to get out front. Hamlin was obviously disappointed that he wasn’t able to capture the victory but noted that his pit crew’s performance was a positive to take away from the race.
“We struggled with our pit crew early in the season but they are definitely hitting their stride and did a great job all day”, Hamlin said. He mentioned that the only real problem they had on pit-road was a missing lugnut on the final stop.
The JGR organization has underperformed to their standards thus far in the season and their drivers have yet to score a victory.
When asked if the organization as a whole got better by making small gains, Hamlin responded, “we haven’t gotten better, we’re really right where we were. If we go to a mile-and-a-half next week we’re just as far off as we were a week ago”.
Hamlin noted that you need to have raw speed each and every week in order to beat the top teams.
Although the results haven’t met the standards of Joe Gibbs Racing or Denny Hamlin for that matter, his third place finish was the best result for the organization at Richmond. Kyle Busch emerged as a favorite late in the race, but a miscue on the final stop halted his chances at a top-5 finish or even a win.
Photo Credit: Greg Atkins