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“It Doesn’t Go Right” – Denny Hamlin’s Crew Chief Bluntly Reveals the Issues With Joe Gibbs They Had to Overcome To Reach 4th in Standings

Published 05/28/2023, 5:30 AM EDT

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The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has been a rollercoaster ride so far for plenty. While Ross Chastain leads the rankings as of now, there is still plenty left in the competition to see a turnaround. One of the strong contenders in this campaign has been Denny Hamlin. However, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had quite a few hurdles to overcome.

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With over 600 races to his name, Hamlin can never be written off with the experience he possesses. Having said that, it hasn’t been all easy for him in the ongoing season. Recently, his crew chief gave a brief idea about it.

The crew chief of Denny Hamlin highlights the team’s struggles after an impressive comeback this season


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It was in 2010 that Denny Hamlin came closest to winning the NASCAR Cup Series. Unfortunately, he ended up the runner-up to the eventual winner, Jimmie Johnson. Since then, Hamlin has finished five times in the top five but hasn’t quite managed to register his first-ever title triumph.

This season, he stands a good chance, especially after the impressive comeback that he has made following a stuttery start. However, things have changed drastically for Hamlin after being 12th in the standings following the race at Bristol Motor Speedway.


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Interestingly, the 3x Daytona 500 winner was confident of turning around things then. Recently, his crew chief Chris Gabehart made an appearance on the Motor Racing Network Crew Call show. It was then that host Todd Gordon pointed out how various issues have affected Hamlin’s season.

Gabehart stated how the 25-point penalty for the Phoenix Raceway incident was one of the factors. While the punishment was debatable, he didn’t hesitate to point out a major issue Joe Gibbs’s team has faced this season. He said, “We’ve been running well, it’s just late race last run stuff, it doesn’t go right.”

Further, he pinpointed the number of points the team lost in the late race that affected them in the standings. Gabehart said, “We’ve given up 35 to 40 points in the last 20 laps of races this year. And Phoenix is the most notable one obviously where we restart inside the top ten and finish last car on lead lap. So there’s been a lot of instances like that.”

However, on the plus side since Bristol, Hamlin has been in terrific form as he now stands fourth in the standings. While his efforts have to be credited, Gabehart specified what is the ideal thing to do when a team struggles. He said, “So what you got to do as a race team is look past the points at times and say to yourself how are we really running, how are we performing rather than get caught up on the numbers and the results themselves.”

Gabehart even sent a message to all those who tend to draw conclusions solely based on the numbers available. He said, “Because while they don’t draw pictures on scorecards, they only write numbers, the result, so the only thing that matters that’s not always how you measure your race team. Sometimes you got to look deeper.”

Amazingly, this did help Hamlin, as he now stands a very bright chance of going all the way this season. However, while Gabehart could be proud of it, he wasn’t quite happy with one of his decisions after the race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Chris Gabehart blames himself for Denny Hamlin’s disappointing end at the North Wilkesboro Speedway


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Safe to say, Denny Hamlin had an impressive start last Sunday at North Wilkesboro Speedway. However, things changed drastically after a caution on lap 18. Post then, Hamlin fell out of the top ten and eventually ended in the 13th position.

Having missed out on pitting during lap 18 seemed to be a turning point for the 42-year-old. Speaking about this decision, Chris Gabehart spoke after the race. He said, “You can’t pit under green (flag), there was no evidence that that was going to do anything. Where we messed up was not pitting on lap 18. I knew better. 100% should’ve pit under that caution and didn’t.”


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WATCH THIS STORY: “Ross [Chastain] Manipulated It” – NASCAR Insider Put the Sport Under Heavy Scrutiny, Proclaiming They “Screwed up Denny’s Penalty”

Gabehart continues, “That puts you on defense rather than offense, and at these kinds of racetracks and these kinds of scenarios, you don’t want to be on defense.” It was big of Hamlin’s crew chief to accept his mistake there. However, with a smart mind like him present in the team, the JGR driver certainly has a good chance to make it big this season.

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Written by:

Priyank Mithani


One take at a time

Priyank Mithani is a NASCAR writer at EssentiallySports with a passion for motorsports that began in his childhood. Over the years, he has been following the sport meticulously, and his insights are highly respected within the NASCAR community. Priyank is a devoted fan of Kyle Busch and has closely followed his career for years.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare