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Late-race pit road penalty "frustrating" for Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin clearly had a car to contend for the win on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway but once again pit road was his nemesis.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, FedEx Express Toyota Camry

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, FedEx Express Toyota Camry

John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

Hamlin finished second in Stage 1 and took the Stage 2 win on Sunday and looked to be in excellent position heading into the final round of green-flag stops to challenge for his third win of 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.

On Lap 160 of 200, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Christopher Bell, attempted to block an advance by Ross Chastain and the two ended up wrecking into the Turn 4 wall to bring out a caution.

Most of the cars, including Hamlin, elected to pit but Kevin Harvick stayed on the track and inherited the lead. Hamlin was first off pit road and would have lined up second.

However, his No. 11 team received a pair of penalties – a safety violation and it had too many crew members over the wall during his stop. He was forced to restart the race from the rear of the field.

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Hamlin lined up 19th on the restart and made his way back to third at the finish, but with no additional cautions in the race, Harvick’s lead was too big to overcome.

“It’s just frustrating,” Hamlin said. “We’ve had really fast cars throughout the year and Dover comes to mind and Pocono comes to mind and this race comes to mind and a bunch of others. Just can’t get a ‘W’ in the column.

“Hats off to Joe Gibbs Racing for giving me a car that fast and my team for setting it up really good. This is a piece of the puzzle you have to have to win races. Everyone has to do their job to the best of their ability and we just are lacking in one little section of our team that we just can’t hem up.”

Not the first time

Unfortunately for Hamlin, the issues on his final pit stop were the 31st time so far this season his team has been assessed a penalty of some kind on pit road.

While some come from such things as pitting on a closed pit road following an accident, many of Hamlin’s have occurred while he was racing on the lead lap.

Asked how the issue would needs to be addressed with the playoffs starting in less than a month, Hamlin said, “I’m not really sure how you fix it. I’m not smart enough to run the department to fix it. I just hope that we make strides and keep getting better,” he said.

“It’s just frustrating when you have fast cars like our Toyotas did this weekend, there’s just absolutely no excuse for not winning. We’re the ones that have to look each other in the face on Monday and figure out how we just keep doing this.

“Hopefully, we can make it constructive and continue to get better, but obviously it’s disappointing.”

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