Hamlin hung out in the back of the field and avoided Sunday’s last-lap crash to come home with a clean car and a 14th place finish. With the finish, Hamlin preserves his hopes as a contender in the Chase for the Sprint Cup sitting third, 23 points behind leader Brad Keselowski.
“I’m sure my fans are frustrated,” he said. “But it’s what you have to do.
“One they started crashing, immediately I just stood on the brake and waited on everyone to kind of wash down the track.”
Before the green flag ever dropped, Hamlin had decided to hang out in the back. As the laps clicked off, especially after the 150 mark, the question began to arise – would his plan backfire? Had he stayed back too long.
Hamlin, though, never doubted his strategy --- basically football’s prevent defense.
“With this strategy you’re basically conceding a win --- a chance at a win,” he said, “but you’re just trying to do damage control not to finish in the 20s and 30s.”
Jimmie Johnson is second, 14 points behind Keselowski. Kasey Kahne is fourth, 36 points back.
Hamlin’s finish could have been better, but NASCAR chose to freeze the field at the time of the accident, giving him no chance to pilot around the damaged cars.
Jeff Gordon, one of the wrecked cars in the frozen field, managed to make the biggest jump of the day. His second-place finish moved him to sixth place, 42 points behind the leader.
Gordon’s finish keeps his hot streak going. After taking third at Loudon, he’s posted back-to-back second-place finishes.
“We got really lucky there,” Gordon said. “… it keeps the championship hopes alive.”
Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not as fortunate. He dropped four spots into 11, all but ending his title hopes with six races to go.
“I don’t even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year,” he said. “But I ain’t got much choice.”