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Hamlin Copes with More Brickyard Heartbreak after Late Crash Ends Win Hopes

The mask covering Denny Hamlin’s mouth couldn’t prevent the disappointment of his words from coming through. Clearly, the ending to this NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway hurt.

Hamlin held a commanding 10-car lead over Kevin Harvick late in the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records on Sunday, only to have a right front tire fail heading into Turn 1. The track’s SAFER Barrier absorbed much of the heavy impact, but the reaction from a stunned Harvick said it all.

“Ouch,” Harvick said on his team’s radio.

Inside the damaged No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, Hamlin was left to wonder why he can’t catch a winning break at IMS. He has had several strong runs, including five top-six finishes and a pole since 2012, but he hasn’t reached Victory Lane. He has finished third three times (2008, ’14 and ’18).

Sunday, Hamlin was just seven laps from his first Brickyard victory after leading 19 consecutive laps prior to the accident.

“It’s tough,” he said. “I hate it for the FedEx team. We did what we needed to do, it just didn’t work out for us today. I had a fast car, obviously. We were stretching (the lead), but I wasn’t pushing the right front (tire) at all.

“It’s kind of roulette (with the tires) if you’re going to get one that’s going to stay together or not, and mine didn’t. You saw the end result.”

Hamlin finished 28th, a heartbreaker if there ever was one.

“It stinks, but I’m proud of the entire FedEx team,” said Hamlin, who won the Daytona 500 in February. “I’ve been so good lately. I feel like I’m doing all I can (at) these big races and just a lot of things like this don’t go my way all the time. But we’re still going go next week (to Kentucky Speedway) and try to win the next one.”

Hamlin and Harvick, who scored his third Brickyard win, not only had the two strongest cars through much of Sunday’s race, they’ve been the two drivers to beat since NASCAR returned from its COVID-19 layoff. They have alternated wins in the past three races and have combined to win eight of the 16 races overall in this interrupted season.

“It’s been a great battle,” Hamlin said. “Those guys are great competitors, and the last few weeks it’s been kind of a head-to-head with me and him. There’s probably not another guy I’d rather battle with each and every week.

“Congrats to (him) and their team; they did a great job. Obviously, we had two very close and equal cars, but they got it today.”

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