By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
CONCORD, N.C. – Denny Hamlin already had his work cut out for him heading into the inaugural Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but after the first day on the 2.28-mile, 17-turn road course, he and the No. 11 team have a challenging road ahead if they are to transfer on to the next round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
After two poor performances in the first two races of the postseason, Hamlin enters Charlotte with a 28-point deficit to the cut off and needed a clean weekend to be able to make the next round with his championship hopes still intact. However, a clean weekend is not what they would get.
Things went from bad to worse as the day progressed, with Hamlin striking one of the curbs on the backstretch chicane during practice, sending the front end of his Toyota two feet into the air before slamming back to earth, causing a decent amount of damage to his car.
Practice was just the beginning of the headache for Hamlin as he took to the track with his repaired car in qualifying and the backstretch chicane bit him once more.
He was able to keep it off the curbs this time around, but in the process, he tagged the tire barrier at the exit of the chicane, which in turn sent his car for a spin into the outside wall, causing heavy damage to the rear end.
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Though Hamlin limped back to pit road and assisted his crew in getting the car repaired in an effort to return to the track, he was only able to put down the 27th fastest time by the time qualifying was over.
Adding insult to injury, the team elected to switch to a backup car after surveying the damage further, sending him to the back of the pack for Sunday’s race.