By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
For the third time this season, Denny Hamlin crossed the line in third during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, dominated by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.
After the race, Hamlin felt he could’ve battled with his teammate, but needed more speed during short runs.
“I wish we would’ve won. I wish we had a little bit more speed. We were just a little bit off the 18 (Kyle Busch). It seemed like a half a tenth a lap or so,” Hamlin explained. “Every now and then on the long run we could bust off a lap as good or better, but in the short run, they were just exception and we couldn’t run with them there.”
His road to his sixth top-five in 13 races had its share of bumps along the way.
During the opening laps of stage two, Hamlin was battling Jimmie Johnson for valuable track position, but entering Turn 3, their night’s changed as Hamlin ran into the back of Johnson, sending the seven-time champion around. Fortunate for both drivers, they only sustained minor damage and went on with their stellar nights.
While the incident wasn’t Hamlin’s defining moment of the night, he added that it build some frustration because he had to overcome adversity to score third in the 400-lap contest. Furthermore, when he ran into Brad Keselowski on a restart.
“No real defining moment. You know I wish we would’ve got more stage points, but we were – I think we finished third, sixth and eighth. I just had to go to the back of the back there with the damage with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and then we had some other – the 2 (Brad Keselowski) stayed out and that jumbled us up on the one restart,” said Hamlin. “All day we just battled back to where we should’ve been and really third is a good spot where I felt like our car belonged all night.”
Despite some disappointment, Hamlin felt his car was superior than most of the field after running inside the top-three throughout the night.
“Yeah, we were just the best of the rest. We just didn’t had the speed quite that the 18 (Kyle Busch) had and we had to battle back there with the contact with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and then 2 (Brad Keselowski) on that restart,” said Hamlin. “Overall, I thought that we had a really good car here tonight. Second at times, third at times and so good to kind of get a good finish and really happy for my teammate, Kyle, there and getting a win at all of the active Cup tracks.”
The man who sits in a two-way tie for sixth will look to score his first win of the season at a track he’s previously won four times, the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” known as Pocono Raceway for the running of the Pocono 400 on June 3rd.