After struggling during practice on Friday Denny Hamlin recovers and scores his first top-three finish since Daytona at Richmond (Va.) Raceway on Saturday night.
Although Hamlin wanted the win, he appreciated how his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team worked to make his car better after struggling during opening practice on Friday.
“We couldn’t make a lap on Friday without (the car) sliding up the track,” said Hamlin. “I mean, the last thing you want to do is come here and kind of get embarrassed, not run well, especially when you know what you need out of your race car.”
Although his car was good at the start of the 400-lap race on Saturday night, Hamlin said his car performed better and better as the race went on.
“We definitely made it better and we made some adjustments and got our car better and got some track position with some good pit stops,” said Hamlin.
Best result since Daytona
Although it wasn’t a win, the third-place showing was his best since the season opener eight races ago. Hamlin was pleased that he was able to be in contention late in the race.
“We got close there,” said Hamlin. “We just got better as the race went on. We were 13th, 15th, something like that in the first half of the race. Just weren't very strong. We just made some really good adjustments that got us rolling towards the front, especially on long runs.
“We got to the top-five, then we had some pit stops there. We gained a few spots there. But, you know, restarting on that outside line, it was a huge deficit. I just couldn't get the grip that I needed to try to run with (Kyle Busch) side‑by‑side into Turn 1.
“That's all I wanted, to be within one car length getting into Turn 1, and I just couldn't get it.”
Hamlin, who has a reputation for frequently struggling with pit road penalties, said strong the performance by him and his pit crew attributed to the podium finish.
“Yeah, they (pit crew) did a really good job today,” said Hamlin. “That's for sure. We've been mediocre (on pit road). I think if you look at stats through the year, we've been mediocre on pit road. I've been atrocious on pit road. But we had a good stop there towards the end of the race.
“I don't know if the other guys had issues or not, but I know (Martin Truex Jr.) looked like he had some issues on pit road. We capitalized, did a good job. I could feel it was a clean couple stops there, and that really helped us with our track position.”