Five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin lost control of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Sunday, ruining his chance to win the STP 500 in back-to-back years. Hamlin lost control on lap 219 going into Turn 1, resulting in a hard hit into the wall.
Turns out even defending NASCAR race champions can make an occasional mistake on a short track. Caused by apparent wheel-hopping “for the first time” in his career at the half-mile facility, Hamlin drove to the garage area where the Daytona 500 champion would fail to be able to return to the track, finishing in the 39th spot – his worst career finish at Martinsville in 21 starts.
“It was really out of the blue and a rookie move on my part,” Hamlin said on television after the incident. “I’ve been around here too much to do something like that. I really thought we had a car to win.”
Starting eighth, Hamlin was consistently in the top 15 before the caution flew on lap 93. The following pit stop led to a penalty for being too fast on pit road. Despite the setback, the Virginia native had stormed back into the top 5 before the accident.
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