“Don’t Even Remotely Relate”- Toyota Loyalist Denny Hamlin Takes Blame Away From Japanese OEM in JGR’s Championship Heartbreak

Published 11/08/2023, 9:19 AM EST

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It’s on paper now that Denny Hamlin has cemented his future with Joe Gibbs Racing. He has committed to a multi-year contract alongside a continued partnership with Toyota. The manufacturers are not only stalwarts in the NASCAR arena but are also eyeing a venture into Formula 1.

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Yet, it’s questionable whether F1 will witness the same level of devotion and advocacy that Toyota enjoys from its NASCAR drivers. Consider Denny Hamlin: in a recent podcast, when questioned about engine failures and car malfunctions during the playoff races, #11 promptly deflected the criticism, attributing it to mere coincidence with unwavering loyalty.

Denny Hamlin chalks up Joe Gibbs Racing’s series of car malfunctions to sheer happenstance

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Joe Gibbs Racing came tantalizingly close to clinching victories this season, yet the ultimate triumph eluded them. Martin Truex Jr shone brightly, securing the regular season championship, but his playoff performance saw an unexpected downturn, largely due to persistent pit stop woes. Despite repeated setbacks in the pits that undermined his races, timely interventions were notably absent.

In addition to the specter of mechanical failure haunting the team, Martin Truex Jr’s engine gave out at Homestead-Miami, almost in a synchronized misfortune, the No. 19 car was seen retiring to the pits engulfed in smoke just a lap post the No. 11’s withdrawal. It wasn’t just Truex Jr. who battled with technical gremlins. His teammates equally grappled with their share of breakdowns throughout the season. Retrospectively, Denny Hamlin himself stood on the cusp of Championship 4, if not for these untimely technical disruptions. His stellar performances at Kansas Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway, in particular, showcased his championship potential.

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Adding to the string of mishaps, the brake rotor of Christopher Bell failed during the climactic championship race. Yet, amid this turmoil of mechanical and technical setbacks, Denny Hamlin seems disinclined to acknowledge the possibility of manufacturing defects or intrinsic vehicle issues.

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During a dialogue with co-host Jared Allen about Toyota’s mechanical woes that derailed their championship aspirations, Hamlin staunchly defended Toyota. He stated, “I think it was more of a coincidence than anything, you know because the two things don’t even remotely relate with my searing issue.”

He also addressed the separate car failures of Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell, adding, “It is coincidence still because they’re all different. But yeah, it’s certainly played a role in the last three races, right? So I think that it’s certainly not ideal. You know, I don’t know personally whether, you know, that was a setup issue with the 20 or a driver too much brake issue. I don’t know, but it, you know, if it blows a rotor out then it’s too hot so it got too hot somehow some way.”

Nonetheless, Christopher Bell’s post-incident comments at Phoenix peeled back the layers of the stark reality the team faced on the track.

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Christopher Bell reflects on the mishap that ended his championship hopes

Christopher Bell’s ascent in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship race came to an abrupt halt. It came after a dramatic encounter with the wall in the second stage of Sunday’s climactic showdown at Phoenix. Having climbed from a 13th-place start to break into the top five, Bell was a strong contender. Sitting as the second-highest among the title-eligible drivers, disaster struck when the right-front brake rotor of his No. 20 Toyota Camry TRD shattered.

Prior to the catastrophic failure, Bell had communicated his growing concerns about the braking system to his Joe Gibbs Racing crew. He cautioned crew chief Adam Stevens of the escalating need for cooling solutions to carry him through the race. “Well, that was my first time I’ve ever exploded a rotor in my career, so, yeah, I was surprised. Early on in the race I had a little bit of brake fade in the first run. In the second run, it just kept getting worse and worse,” Bell recounted as per a Racing America report.

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Bell’s premature exit from the 312-lap battle at Phoenix Raceway relegated him to a 36th-place finish. Consequently, he closed the season fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, trailing behind the likes of Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, and William Byron.

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

892Articles

One take at a time

Controversies, gossip, and breakneck speeds? Count me in! While F1 has its charm, NASCAR helps me relive those "Roadrash" gaming days. My favorite among the drivers has to be Tyler Reddick. The 23XI Racing pilot is not only likable but also a complete beast when he is on track, more specifically, road courses.
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Edited by:

Abhishek Ramesh

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