Hamlin still on the outside looking in

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 3, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

FORT WORTH, Tex. – Denny Hamlin did almost everything right on Sunday afternoon.

Despite his best efforts, however, the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota left Texas Motor Speedway in a good-sized hole.

Hamlin started Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 from the front row beside pole winner Kurt Busch. He led the first 46 laps, 65 overall. Hamlin was in the top spot for the final restart on Lap 289 and rolled home in third place behind winner Kevin Harvick and runner-up Martin Truex Jr., scoring 47 points for his efforts.

But with Harvick and Truex both clinching spots in the Nov. 19 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and with Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate having done the same last week at Martinsville, Hamlin has two options as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Phoenix for next Sunday’s final event in the Playoff’s Round of 8.

If Hamlin hopes to compete for a title at Homestead, he either must win the race or make up a 19-point deficit to fourth-place Brad Keselowski.

“Yeah, we probably need to win, most likely, which is amazing,” Hamlin said. “It’s the second year in a row, the third round, where I average inside a top five-finish, and that ain’t going to be good enough.  It needs to be better.

“But it’s about winning races. That’s what we’ll go next week and try to do.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.