Denny Hamlin came to Phoenix as one of the favorites to win the 2020 NASCAR Cup title. He arrived at Phoenix on the strength of 7 race wins on the season, second only to Kevin Harvick.
He came up short yet again. Last season a late race pit road miscue cost him the title. Sunday it seemed to be a lack of speed. He never led a lap and finished fourth.
“Yeah, we were a little off handling,” Hamlin said. “But I think just overall car speed, I think we just didn’t have quite enough. Our next best teammate was 10th.”
“As an organization we’ve got to get a little bit better, especially on the short tracks. It just seemed like we were a little bit off all year, and that was all I had, that’s for sure. I was pushing for everything I had, just the FedEx Camry didn’t have quite enough today, and we ended up fourth.”,
Hamlin said he was disappointed but knew coming into Phoenix the team might struggle.
“But you know, you’ve got to make sure you put your expectations kind of in check in the sense of, you know, we didn’t ‑‑ our organization hasn’t really been very good on the short tracks this year,” he said. “It’s kind of a learning period for us. But we put our best effort forward. We had no mistakes today, did everything I possibly could, just I had nothing there to go.”
Hamlin admitted he wasn’t quite sure when knew after the green flag fell that it wasn’t going to be his day.
“I mean, up until the last stage, the leader was always 12 lengths in front of me, but there was always a car or two between,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know, I mean, we just ‑‑ you know, I thought early on in the race we were pretty good. I think we caught the 22 (Logano) late in the run, but then I saw the 9 (Elliott) coming through the field and then I saw even on the long run he was reeling us all in.
“I think Penske and Hendrick both had two teammates inside the top 10 before we even got to our next best two other teammates. Our organization has got to get a little bit better on these types of tracks, and especially it being ‑‑ it going to be the deciding factor in the championship.
“We’ve just overall got to get a little bit better. I knew for me probably around lap 200 that we needed some special circumstances to kind of go our way.”
Hamlin ended his day by looking towards next season, while reflecting on what he has accomplished.
No one has won more than we have over the last two years,” Hamlin said. “Daytona 500 two years in a row, Final 4 two years in a row. Pretty proud what this team is doing and what we’re building towards. Proud of the effort. We’ll come back and do it again next year. Looking forward to it. We’ll win as many races as we possibly can to get ourselves back in Phoenix again and with another shot. But proud of this whole Joe Gibbs FedEx team for giving me cars that are capable of winning every week.”