After the last round of pit stops during the race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway on Sunday, Chris Buescher took the lead with a comfortable advantage of over six seconds ahead of Hamlin.
Buescher seemed poised to easily win the race, which had only experienced two cautions so far (both for stage breaks). However, Buescher’s lead was wiped out when Daniel Suarez spun out with less than 10 laps remaining out of the 400 total laps.
Buescher and Hamlin emerged as the leaders after making pit stops for fresh tires. However, during the restart with only three laps remaining, Hamlin initially kept up with Buescher but then made a mistake by entering too aggressively into a turn. As a result, he drifted towards the outer part of the track in Turn 2 and lost all the speed he had built up.
“I went too far in. My intention was to reach the outer part,” Hamlin clarified. “After the restart, I had a fantastic acceleration coming out of Turn 2 and again from (Turn).”
“I was in such close proximity to him that I attempted to accelerate a bit more in order to move towards the outer side. However, I applied excessive brake pressure.”
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Mavis Tires & Brakes Toyota Camry
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Buescher and his teammate and co-owner Brad Keselowski from RFK Racing clearly had the most powerful cars in the race, leading a total of 190 laps together.
Hamlin expressed gratitude for the chance the previous caution presented, allowing him to position himself next to Buescher during the last restart. However, he was aware that surpassing the formidable No. 17 Ford would be challenging.
“I didn’t execute the restart well. I didn’t navigate Turn 1 effectively on the penultimate lap. Our team provided us with an opportunity,” he expressed.
“The victory should have belonged to him regardless. The occurrence of the caution towards the conclusion provided us with a second opportunity at life in that moment.”
Hamlin, who caused a stir in his victory at Pocono last week by pushing Kyle Larson towards the edge of the track during a late restart, faced some retaliation from Larson on Sunday.
Larson made a pit stop to get fresh tires and was swiftly making his way through the race. When he approached Hamlin, who was driving slower due to having older tires, Larson gently bumped into Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota.
Hamlin regarded a question regarding the race’s proceedings following last week’s events as “an interesting topic of discussion.”
“He said that Kyle gave him a helpful push down the front straightaway. He expressed gratitude for the assistance.”