Denny Hamlin did all he could during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, but in the end his race and his shot at a Sprint Cup for 2012 ended with something he had no control over.
With a stellar record of past success at Martinsville, Hamlin had won three of the last six races there; he was expected to be a contender for the win Sunday.
Hamlin started the day fifth and was able to remain inside the top five in the early going. But on lap 50 NASCAR caught Hamlin speeding on the entrance to pit road during a caution and was given a pass through penalty. He restarted in 31st place. He rebounded however and by lap 88 had fought his way back to 17th place. By lap 112, Hamlin’s recovery had him back inside the top 10, and by lap 137 he was inside the top five. He could go on to lead twice in the race for 12 lap, but on lap 208 Hamlin suffered more misfortune; NASCAR again cited him for speeding on pit road and Hamlin found himself in 28th.
Again Hamlin fought his way back and was inside the top five by lap 298. On lap 372 however Hamlin suffered a problem that he could not fight back from. The electrical system in his Toyota began to short out and Hamlin spent several laps trying to work out the problem. He was soon forced to head to the garage.
“I was hoping that possibly when I down shifted coming down pit road that I somehow cycled the ECU and I thought that maybe that was the problem,” Hamlin said. “So I shut it off and tried to get that working again with no luck. It’s just something that we couldn’t control.”
View slideshow: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway, Sunday October 28, 2012
The crew found a faulty master switch and they were able to repair it and get Hamlin back out, but it was too late for him to recover; Hamlin finished the day 33rd 44 laps down.
“Going through the adversity of speeding twice and still driving back to the front — it’s frustrating. What can you do?” Hamlin said. “We broke a bolt on a master switch and it ended our Chase chances. We’ll try to turn the table and get a lot of wins. Definitely disappointing as far as that’s concerned.”
Even worse Hamlin took a huge point’s hit dropping two spots to fifth and is now 49 points out of first.
While not mathematically eliminated, Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racings hopes for a Sprint Cup title are all but over.
“I’ve been in these Chases for seven years and I’ve had my fair share of electrical issues and motor issues and things like that,” Hamlin said. “All I can do is just drive my heart out and if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. We’ll have our time, it’s just our time is not now.”
Like Kyle Busch before him, Hamlin seems to be suffering a sort of curse when it comes to NASCAR’s Chase. Busch has never done well in the Chase and didn’t even make this year’s field partly due to some bad luck, but also mechanical problems out of his control. Hamlin has now suffered the same fate. A mechanical problem out of his control that has let his championship hopes slip away.
But is it some sort of mysterious curse? No, it’s simply the flaws in a team trying to win a championship among some of the best NASCAR has to offer during a time when problems are magnified. It’s not a curse it’s simply bad timing. As for Hamlin he’s ready to put it all behind him and move on.
“Just have fun — that’s all I can do. Just go out there and be relaxed and enjoy this championship battle that’s shaping up,” he said. “It’s a shame we can’t be a part of it, but we’re going to try to work our way as far up in the points as we possibly can and just keep digging.”
For more NASCAR News and NASCAR Commentary, follow me on Twitter and Facebook or visit CupScene.com.