Denny Hamlin is happy despite last place finish at Sonoma

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 11: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 11, 2023 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

For much of the weekend at Sonoma Raceway, Denny Hamlin was on top of the world. He grabbed the pole Saturday and Sunday led the first 33 laps and won Stage 1.

His lead evaporated on lap 33 when eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr. got by and took the top spot. Hamlin stayed close however and briefly retook the lead on lap 51 when the races first caution of the day came out for a loose tire on pit road.

Hamlin would never lead the race again but fought to stay in contention. That was until lap 93 while racing for 9th spot with William Byron. Exiting Turn 12, his Toyota clipped the wall and was sent first to the far wall then the inside wall at the start-finish line. The toe link on his car was broken and he was forced to the garage and listed as finishing last.

“I was really close behind the 24 (William Bryon),” he said. “I couldn’t really see where I was going and then I went to turn left to try to peak under him, and the wall was there.”

With a win this season, at Kansas, Hamlin still feels he’s in a much better place than he was this time leas season and tried to look at the positives.

“Yeah, it was a good day,” he said. “Certainly, that caution right before the end of the second stage hurt us as far as track position, but overall, I was happy having more speed.”

Greg Engle