One restart too many for Hamlin in Nashville

Denny Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing team held the lead until the fuel tank ran dry at Nashville Superspeedway and ended their chances at a victory.

Hamlin led the Ally 400 when the caution flew before the white flag in the scheduled distance. Austin Cindric spun on the backstretch after contact with Noah Gragson. He’d taken the lead with seven laps to go after chasing down Ross Chastain from over two seconds behind when the pit cycle settled the leaderboard.

Chris Gabehart, Hamlin’s crew chief, told his driver they had enough fuel for one overtime attempt. Hamlin made it through three before having to pit before the restart for the fourth attempt, ultimately finishing the race in 12th.


“We ran out there under that caution,” Hamlin said of the third overtime attempt.

“He (Gabehart) was monitoring fuel pressure or I let him know what the fuel pressure was, so we were fine with just running out of gas, and we did under caution,” Hamlin said. “It was the right call. I was going down pitlane there out of gas. I’m surprised we lasted that many green-white-checkers, honestly. Certainly, it stinks being 15 seconds from a win at the end and, then 10 seconds from a win at the end, and then to finish 12th. It’s just part of it.”

The first overtime attempt didn’t make it through the first two corners. Hamlin led the way with Ross Chastain to his outside and Kyle Larson in the bottom lane behind Hamlin’s Toyota. Larson washed up the track and collided with Chastain.

The second overtime attempt made it to the backstretch where a multi car crash broke out. On the third attempt, Larson didn’t launch in the outside lane and stacked up the field, which resulted in Kyle Busch being spun. Hamlin held the lead through all three restarts.

But Hamlin and his team knew their window was quickly closing. Hamlin was continually coached about saving fuel and switching to different fuel pumps. During the second overtime, Gabehart conceded there was no need to pit because it wouldn’t win the race, so they would run until the car was out of fuel (with three wins already, it wasn’t a dire situation).

When the caution came out to set up the fourth overtime attempt, Gabehart honestly told his driver they would not win the race. Hamlin admitted that was a “bummer” but understood the situation.

“That’s NASCAR Cup series racing,” he said. “Once you get into one of these green-white-checkers, it’s just going to be chaos, and everyone is just going to run into each other. That’s just part of it. You know there’s multiple green-white-checkers coming, and certainly, when we’re strategizing for a race, you can’t really predict for that.

“So, we just needed Cindric not to spin out the first time, and this would have been over. But it’s part of racing.”

Story originally appeared on Racer