Denny Hamlin expressed some disappointment and frustration following his fourth place finish at Martinsville after having a dominant car during the beginning of the Third Stage of the race.
After a late race caution due to a tire falling off Anthony Alfredo’s car, Hamlin and his team chose to hit pit road despite just pitting 9 laps prior under green. The move would put Hamlin behind the eight ball and he would never recover settling for a fourth place finish.
In a post-race interview, Hamlin took some shots at the Martinsville racing package that NASCAR brought to the track as well as what he described as the “new NASCAR.”
First, he told media members after the race, “We had the lead and the caution came out. We had nine lap tires and we pitted there and it put us back towards the end of the lead lap cars, and just can’t pass.”
He would elaborate on those thoughts when one member of the press noted the race looked a lot like last year’s race.
Hamlin said, “It was worse. You can’t pass. I mean 30-40 lap tires and you can just stay up front. Cars that I was lapping … you just can’t pass them. That’s an aerodynamic problem that we’ve got to figure out.”
When one member points to track position be the phrase of the race, Hamlin said, “It’s all track position. Racing is track position. This is the new NASCAR, where these cars you just cannot pass. You just get out front, don’t mess up on pit road, don’t mess up your strategy, and you’ll win.”
He then pointed to eventual winner Kyle Larson, “That’s what the five car has done in his wins. It’s just tinker along, tinker along, and the race just falls right perfectly for him.”
Hamlin shared similar thoughts in his post-race interview on Fox Sports 1. When asked what he needed for the last run, Hamlin said, “Just to stay in the lead. That was the biggest thing. Just like Richmond when we drive the lead, you got to stay there. And we just had unfortunate timing of that green flag pit cycle and we pitted which put us toward the end of those lead lap cars.”
He continued, “Cars that I just was lapping 10 laps before that, couldn’t pass them. So this is next gen racing with these tires and this aero package. There’s no passing. Obviously, we saw 41 dominate the race and once he got caught in the back that was it. That’s just what we got now.”
Hamlin wasn’t the only one to point out how tough it was pass, Chase Elliott revealed it was tough just trying to get to the car ahead of you.
When asked if he was surprised how tame the race was, Elliott answered, “No, you can’t get to anyone. You can’t. It’s really difficult to get to somebody. Just like it was last year.”
“And everybody’s just the same,” he continued. “And everybody’s just the same. The more you’re the same the harder it is to be different, and you know the rest.”
With a fourth place finish at Martinsville, Hamlin is currently 9th in the NASCAR Cup Series Point Standings. He’s 55 points behind Christopher Bell, who currently sits atop the standings.
However, looking at the playoff picture, Hamlin is in 11th given he has yet to lock himself in with a win. He is 47 points ahead of 17th place Daniel Suárez.
What do you make of Hamlin’s comments? What do you make of this “new NASCAR” as he described it?