By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
After several forgettable weeks in a row, Denny Hamlin rebounds with a top-10 finish at Pocono Raceway.
With track position being key in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400, Hamlin was up front for the final restart in his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry. As the field spread out to be four and five-wide entering turn one, he found himself in the middle of the action.
Hamlin drifted backward, behind Clint Bowyer, who restarted second. As the field exited turn one Kyle Larson attempted to clear Bowyer. Larson’s No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 went across the nose of the No. 14 Ford Mustang and into the wall.
As he avoided the incident, Hamlin lost two positions. However, without another caution and passing at a premium, he stabilized in sixth, the same position he started the race in, by the time the checkered flag waved.
“We had a pretty good car in clean air. I thought the 18 (Kyle Busch) definitely was substantially better,” Hamlin admitted. “The 4 (Kevin Harvick) was pretty good as well, but I thought we could hold our own there. We were running third and got four tires there at the end.
“Track position was just such a huge deal. I didn’t see many cars out there passing today and we were one of them that couldn’t. You got stuck behind guys and it didn’t matter how old their tires were in front of you, you just got stuck behind them and we were one of those guys.”
The sixth-place finish for Hamlin is his ninth top-10 this season, and his first since Richmond seven weeks ago. It is also his best finish since the July 2017 race at the ‘Tricky Triangle.’
Hamlin joked about the turnaround in his luck at Pocono.
“It was a good run. We didn’t hit the wall. That’s a first in about a month. Didn’t blow a tire. That’s about the first in a month. The positives are we got a decent finish out of it there.”
The top-10 finish also moved Hamlin up to sixth in the championship points standings. Already locked in via wins at Daytona and Texas earlier this year, he lost ground in the Playoff Points category as his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch earned the win, putting him at 25 Playoff Points. Hamlin is fourth of those with Playoff Points with 11.