On Saturday, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team had to make an engine and was forced to start 40th at Talladega. But it didn’t take long for Denny Hamlin to get to the front prior to the postponement. In fact, the JGR driver worked himself into the top-10 just a few laps into the first stage.
When the race restarted on Monday afternoon, Hamlin found troubles right away. His right side flap on the hood had came of the FedEx Toyota, therefore had to deal without it for the remaining of the race.
More trouble was on the horizon for Hamlin. On lap 108, prior to the finish of Stage 2, he was caught up in the first big wreck of the day and had nowhere to go. The Chesterfield, Virginia native had some damage to the right front hood.
Due to the incident, Hamlin spent most of the race in the back and avoided other accidents that took place. In the end, he found himself with a shot to win with a two lap dash. Though, Hamlin wound up finishing third in the photo finish that took place right beside him.
“I was just trying to play chess out there,” Hamlin said to MRN Radio. “I knew my odds and percentages with the wrecks, I knew once my competitors started to fall there, I had to be smart. I know that the end of these races end up in a crash fest. I was going to take all the crash positions I could get, once I got back on the lead lap. Once I saw the percentage was for me to go race up front for the win versus taking end the lead lap, it was my best interest to go there at the end and we almost won it anyway.”
Hamlin did not gain any stage points, but with the third place place finish, it was 16th top five finish of the season.