Hamlin rallies from penalty to finish fifth

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 23: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 23, 2019 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin was philosophical about the uncontrolled tire penalty that sent him to the back of the field for a Lap 272 restart in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Up to that point, Hamlin had run consistently in the top five, but as good as the cars of race winner Brad Keselowski and runner-up Chase Elliott were, Hamlin didn’t think the infraction cost him a chance to win the race. The most recent Daytona 500 winner worked his way back to fifth at the finish and wasn’t overly disappointed with the result.

“We’ve got to get better,” Hamlin said. “We know that. We’re struggling a little bit right now, for sure, but certainly it’s a team thing. Last week I had a speeding penalty, so it all equals out. If you’re not going to be the best car, you have to execute perfectly.

“The best car (Keselowski) didn’t falter, so it wouldn’t have made a difference either way, but certainly cost us maybe one or two spots today. Nothing to hang our heads about. Overall, a good day.”

Greg Engle