Denny Hamlin’s Woes Continue in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, is towed after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

It might be a pun, but it’s true. Denny Hamlin has been having a bad streak of luck and that didn’t change in Las Vegas.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver scored three wins in 2021 and finished third in the final Cup standings. He started the year with confidence, heading to the season opening Daytona 500 as a three-time winner of NASCAR’s biggest race. But he was swept up in a crash on lap 63 and was scored with a DNF in 37th place.

Last week at Auto Club Speedway, Hamlin started fourth, but like several Toyota drivers his car suffered overheating issues and he could only manage a 15th place finish.

Sunday at Vegas he started 8th and led 31 laps but was slowed when the power steering failed. From there his day went downhill. He had a slow pit stop caused when he ran over the air hose and had to back up, while running inside the top five. Then on lap 21 he spun. NASCAR didn’t throw the caution right way as the No. 11 Toyota was able to drive away from the spin.

However, that proved to be only briefly as the car stalled near the entrance to pit road causing the yellow to wave. The car was pushed to the pits and Hamlin was soon penalized for pitting too soon and improper fueling.

None of that matter however as a lap later he pitted again and was unable to get the car into gear. For the second time in two of the last three races, Hamlin was scored with a DNF, in 32nd place.

“We broke the transaxle,” he said. “Just killed every gear when I left pit road. We had the best car today. Just got back there and was working our way forward and made mistakes.”

Perhaps the most concerning stat for Hamlin after Vegas is his position in the driver standings. Hamlin is 30th in the standings, 75 markers behind the leader Kyle Larson.