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NASCAR Cup Richmond II

Hamlin admits "I drove in way too deep" in battle for the win

Denny Hamlin had a shot to make it two NASCAR Cup wins in a row, but he knew a victory on Sunday would be a gift.

Following a final round of green flag pit stops Sunday at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Chris Buescher emerged as the race leader and with a more than six-second lead over Hamlin.

Buescher appeared ready to cruise to victory in a race that until then had only two cautions (both for stage breaks). However, a natural yellow for a spin by Daniel Suarez with less than 10 of 400 laps remaining erased Buescher’s advantage.

Buescher and Hamlin were first and second off pit road as everyone came in for new tires. On the restart with three laps to go, Hamlin initially stayed close but then drove in too deep a lap later, drifting up the track in Turn 2 and lost all of his momentum.

“I drove in way too deep. I was trying to get to the outside there,” Hamlin explained. “Really had a great run off of Turn 2 on the restart and off of (Turn) again.

“Yeah, I was just so close to him there that I wanted to try to squirt a little extra gas to try to get to the outside. Just too much brake.”

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Mavis Tires & Brakes Toyota Camry

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Mavis Tires & Brakes Toyota Camry

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Buescher and RFK Racing teammate and co-owner Brad Keselowski clearly had the dominant cars in the race as they combined to lead 190 laps.

Hamlin said he appreciated the opportunity the last caution provided as he was able to line up alongside Buescher on the final restart, but he knew the No. 17 Ford was going to be tough to beat.

“I just didn’t do a good job on the restart. I didn’t do a good job into Turn 1 on the second-to-last lap. Our team gave us a shot,” he said.

“The race should have been his anyway. The caution at the end – it was a second chance at life for us there at the end.”

Hamlin, who stirred controversy in his win last week at Pocono after driving Kyle Larson up the track on a late restart, received a little payback from Larson on Sunday.

After Larson had pit for new tires and was tearing through the field, as he went to drive by the slower Hamlin on older tires, he gave Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota a solid nudge.

Hamlin dismissed a question about how was raced given last week’s events as “a good talking point.”

“Kyle just pushed me down the front straightaway, which is really helpful for us,” he said. “Thanks for that.”

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