Denny Hamlin had a great chance to advance to the Championship 4. Brad Keselowski had been struggling all day, Jimmie Johnson was out of the picture, Ryan Blaney was far behind and Chase Elliott had to win the race to advance.
All Hamlin had to do was finish better than Keselowski and he’d advance to compete for his first championship. Instead, he decided to race his new rival, Chase Elliott, head-to-head. And Elliott decided to get some revenge on Hamlin after Hamlin wrecked him at Martinsville.
Elliott made contact with Hamlin and led to a cut tire for Hamlin and sent him into the wall. He didn’t finish the race, and Keselowski ended up advancing.
NBC NASCAR analysts Dale Jarrett, Nate Ryan and Jeff Burton discussed Hamlin’s strategy, and they agreed that Hamlin made mistakes and cost himself a spot in the Championship 4.
“Why was (Hamlin) even putting up a battle with someone, who we knew there was potential because just a few short weeks ago that things escalated to a bad situation at Martinsville with him?” Jarrett said. “So why would you race that person when it didn’t make any difference?
“(Hamlin) goes out in the first two stages and does everything he needs to do, he’s doing well in the third stage. By then, he had set himself up to where all he had to do was beat (Keselowski). So I don’t understand why he was letting the (Elliott) affect him. If (Elliott) was going to pass him and go on to win the race, he couldn’t do anything there, so just focus on (Keselowski).
“I don’t understand why they weren’t telling Denny more that this isn’t your battle, the battle is still behind you and that’s all you have to worry about.”
Ryan agreed with Jarrett, and they both put some of the blame on Hamlin’s crew for not making him more away of the situation. He had gained enough ground on Keselowski in the first two stages, and all he had to do was hold him off and he’d advance.
Burton said Hamlin was too consumed with racing Elliott and getting the best of the 24 when he should have been focusing on advancing to the next round.
Of course, Hamlin disagreed with the analysis on Twitter, and he even blamed the “stupid media” for spinning the story against him.
It’s understandable why Hamlin is still bitter, but he cost himself a spot in the championship by consuming himself with Elliott. Had he just taken care of business and not worried about Elliott, he’d be racing for a championship this weekend.
Instead, it’s another lost season for Hamlin. He had a golden opportunity to compete for a championship, but now he’ll have to watch as four other drivers compete for the title.