Hamlin asleep on final Kansas restart before salvaging second

Denny Hamlin was caught “sleeping” on the overtime restart Sunday at Kansas Speedway and he failed to take advantage of four fresh tires.

In firm control of the Hollywood Casino 400 when the final caution flew with seven laps to go, Hamlin and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team made a four-tire call. He was the first driver off pit road with four tires, but behind three other drivers who had taken two. Between those three and Daniel Suarez, who stayed out, Hamlin chose to restart sixth, third in the outside lane.

Hamlin didn’t launch on the restart and was gapped by multiple car lengths by the leaders going onto Turn 1. The spring winner from Kansas got caught up in looking at what was going on behind him.

“The No. 5 [Kyle Larson] was just laying back so much; I was trying to back up to him,” Hamlin said. “I should have just focused forward, probably. It gave the No. 45 [Reddick] an opportunity to get up there in front of us, so just kind of sleeping on the restart, looking in the rearview instead of looking in the front.


“But hats off to my Yahoo team, Camry TRD team. Another really, really fast car. Just didn’t need that caution at the end.”

Chris Buescher was the cause of the final caution. The No. 17 blew a right rear tire going into Turn 1, sending the RFK Racing driver into the outside wall and limping around the track.

Ironically, as Hamlin didn’t get the launch, Tyler Reddick did. Reddick, driving one of the cars Hamlin co-owns at 23XI Racing, went on to win the race.

“It certainly stinks,” Hamlin said. “It certainly flipped the results from first to second. But that’s part of racing; our sport is different than others. It’s a sport of chance sometimes, and luck does play a factor and we were unlucky to get that caution.

“We knew that there was going to be a handful of cars…[doing] the opposite of what we did. I think the right call was four tires. But the No. 45 just did a great job of executing. They executed the restart really, really well. It makes me happy that if it wasn’t us, it was them. It’s a decent day.”

Hamlin led 63 laps Sunday and earned 13 points in the stages. While he didn’t leave Kansas with the victory, he’s now the driver sitting the highest on the playoff grid without a win, 49 points above the cutline going into the first elimination race of the postseason at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Story originally appeared on Racer