(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

2020 Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400, Crown Jewel Victory Goes Up in Flames for Denny Hamlin Late

This has been without a doubt one of Denny Hamlin‘s best seasons of his career. During Sunday’s race, Hamlin made some daring moves, including on leader Kevin Harvick at lap 108 as he got a push from Christopher Bell.

That 2020 charm wore off late. Hamlin had a sizable lead over Harvick and Matt Kenseth in the closing laps, when a tire went down as Hamlin entered turn 1 and the No. 11 plowed the outside wall. The car went up in flames and came to a rest in the center of turns 1 and 2. Hamlin got out of the car under his own power, though it took a bit for the window net to come down.

“It’s tough, I hate it for the FedEx team,” said Hamlin. “We did what we needed to do, it just didn’t work out for us today. We had a fast car obviously and we were stretching it out there, but we weren’t really pushing the right front at all. It was more of roulette whether or not you’ll get one that’ll stay together or not, and mine didn’t, and you saw the end result. That stinks, but proud of the whole FedEx group. We’ve just been so good here lately and I hate that… I feel like I’m doing all I can in these big races and a lot of things like this just don’t go my way all the time. But we’re still going to go out next week and try to win the next one.”

Hamlin did everything he was supposed to do but in the end, it wasn’t enough as his right-front tire went down. Once again, another Cup race at Indianapolis was marred by tire issues. Hamlin’s teammate Erik Jones also had a tire go down earlier in the event while Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney and others were retired from the event because of tire issues. The abrasive racing surface of Indianapolis, as well as excessive load in the corners courtesy of the high downforce package, took a toll on the Cup field.

His first Brickyard victory was within reach, but that crown jewel victory will have to wait another year to be added to Hamlin’s resume. He has three career Daytona 500 and two Southern 500 victories to his credit and is a shoo-in for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but is missing two other crown jewels, Indianapolis and the Coca-Cola 600.

After winning the Daytona 500 in February, Hamlin has finished 28th or worse in the other two crown jewels run this season. At Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600, a ballast fell off the car on the pace laps, leaving Hamlin in a hole where he finished 29th, seven laps down. The final crown jewel to be contested in 2020 hits the track on Labor Day weekend with the Southern 500 at Darlington.

Crown jewels aren’t the only thing Hamlin is close to marking off in his career. While domination by Hamlin is evident across the NASCAR Cup circuit, eight tracks have failed to see Hamlin in their victory lane; Las Vegas, Auto Club, Dover, Charlotte (ROVAL & Oval), Sonoma, Kentucky and Indianapolis.

The Cup Series heads to Kentucky next weekend for the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart, a track, as noted above, Hamlin has not earned a victory at.

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Christian Koelle returns to Frontstretch in 2020 as the photo editor at Frontstretch. He will continue to contribute content in the ARCA Menards Series, Sioux Chief Challenge, and ARCA East & West Series. He is also engaged and will be getting married during the 2020 NASCAR off-season.

His favorite tracks on the circuit include Barber Motorsports Park, Iowa Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, and Bristol Motor Speedway.

During the season, Christian also spends time as a photographer with multiple other outlets shooting Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Minor League & Major League Baseball, and NCAA Football.

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