TALLADEGA, Ala. – With his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates running at the back of the field throughout Sunday’s race to protect Round of 8 spots, Denny Hamlin had no obvious friends at the front of the field to help him join his teammates in the next round of the Chase.
But Hamlin revealed after finishing third behind Joey Logano and Brian Scott that he had received help from unexpected quarters in doing just enough to beat Austin Dillon for the final berth on a tiebreaker.
“I knew that strategy was going to be in play,” Hamlin said of the conservative game plan in place for Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. “I mean, obviously, when you have three guys that realistically just don’t need to wreck to get in, and you have one that needs to go out there and almost win to get in, you can’t sacrifice the three guaranteed spots that you got to try to get one more in. That would just be bad gamesmanship. Coach (team owner Joe Gibbs) knows a little better than that. I think he’s coached a few things before.
“So it was on me to go out there and do it. I mean, I had a few friends out there today—a lot of them that probably had manufacturer or team alliances that they broke. I won’t name names to get them in trouble, but they were very, very loyal to us today. That paid dividends, for sure.
“I just counted on my buddies to help me and hope that you earned some respect from some of those guys when they had to make a choice whether they were going to push you or somebody else. And luckily we had the right pushes when we needed them.”