Denny Hamlin was two laps away from his maiden win in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series – the third last race of the regular season – when a disaster struck him from behind.
Namely, Cup Series Rookie Chase Briscoe.
Hamlin was ahead of the pack on the first lap of the second of two overtime attempts, and his closest rival Briscoe had just been penalized for cutting the grass on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway street course to temporarily take the lead. It seemed like Hamlin was leaving the pack behind on his first trip down the road to victory. Until Briscoe spun him out from behind at Turn 10:
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Hamlin finished the race in 23rd place and received no points for a win or even a top 10 finish. Briscoe was 26.
Fortunately for Hamlin, the eventual winner of the Sunday race, AJ Allmendinger, is only a part-time driver of the Cup Series. This means that Hamlin even with a first-time winner in the third last race of the regular season took a playoff place, although Kyle Larson overtook him by the absolute point lead. Same luck goes to drivers Kevin Harvick and Tyler Reddick, who can still make it through the postseason on points, assuming there are no more unique winners this season.
Regardless of Hamlin’s postseason status, NBC cameras captured a tense conversation between the two drivers as Briscoe explained:
After the conversation, Hamlin said on the NBC broadcast that Briscoe told him he didn’t know he was being fined – something Hamlin’s team told him as soon as Briscoe’s car cut through the grass (Briscoe told reporters at NBC the same). ). Hamlin added that he was not mad at Briscoe, only that the driver of Car # 14 had shown a “lack of awareness” of the situation.
“I can accept (Briscoe’s statement),” Hamlin said. “The roles were reversed another time. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve been looking for a mistake. So I get it. To me, it’s like a lack of situational awareness where you’re obviously going to have a penalty until you get the.” Cut the racetrack. “
Briscoe also told the NBC broadcast that he didn’t know he was being sentenced until he’d spun Hamlin out. He said that while he did not try to drive Hamlin out, he was aiming for his first career victory.
Sunday’s race was generally no stranger to spinouts, falls or mayhem as the riders struggled to negotiate the winding Indy street circuit. The toughest section of the track was at Turn 6, which resulted in multiple spinouts, flying debris and two separate multicar falls in the late stages of the race (the first was on lap 78 and the second was on the first of the two extension attempts). .