Denny Hamlin won his second playoff race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on Sunday night. And he took advantage of mistakes by Hendrick Motorsports to do so.
It was a great night for Hamlin, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. After not recording a single victory during the entire 2021 regular season, the 40-year-old driver now has two postseason wins. The first of those came in the very first race of the NASCAR playoffs. And now four weeks later, he has managed to reel off another one. It was an all-around dominant performance from Hamlin.
“I am so happy, so happy to not have to worry about the next two weeks,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “But I’m a professional, so I’m gonna work just as hard each and every week to win.”
As Hamlin pointed out in the interview, he will be able to rest easy now knowing that he has already punched his ticket to the Round of 8. Now he won’t have the added stress of having to win one of the next two wild card races. Those will take place during trips to Talladega Superspeedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval after that.
Hendrick Motorsports Made Mistakes During Latest NASCAR Playoff Race
Now, what exactly led to Denny Hamlin having such a dominant performance at the South Point 400? It goes without saying that his racing skills are some of the best in the business. But there were some other outside circumstances that helped him cement his victory on Sunday. Those outside circumstances were mistakes by Hendrick Motorsports. Usually one of the best teams in the business, it was a rough night overall for their four drivers still in the playoff field.
In the early part of Sunday night’s race, the Hendrick drivers were actually looking pretty strong. William Byron looked like the fastest car on the track for a good portion of the night. And as for star driver Kyle Larson, he won stage one for himself and looked like he could take the overall win for himself.
But all of that went out the window on lap 93. Fellow driver Joey Gase had one of his tires fall of its wheel, and that sent him crashing hard into the outside wall. As a result, other drivers and teams had to adapt. And for Hendrick Motorsports, they made the decision to not pit their drivers under the ensuing caution flag period.
That turned out to be a mistake on their part. Just about every other driver stopped and they were able to make it to the end of the stage. The same can’t be said for those who decided to stay out. They had to pit with around 10 laps to go in stage two and most dropped off the lap lead. That allowed Denny Hamlin to reap the benefits for himself.