“One Constant in the Playoffs” – NASCAR Insider Sends Out His Verdict on the Driver of the Playoff So Far


In the racing world, some champions bask in multiple titles’ glory while others chase the elusive dream. Then, there’s a certain JGR veteran. Fifty Cup Series wins to his name, but not a single championship. It’s a curious case that defies comprehension. Imagine being the larger and quicker predator numerous times, only to see the prey slip away.
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In a recent segment of the NASCAR on NBC podcast featuring hosts Nate Ryan and Steve Letarte, the focus was on the standout performance of #11 Toyota Camry Denny Hamlin during the playoffs. Despite some challenges, #11 and its team have remained constant in the postseason.
A Rollercoaster Race and a Late Twist
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Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway was a rollercoaster of emotions for Hamlin. He came tantalizingly close to victory, but it slipped through his fingers like sand. The margin? A mere 0.327 seconds, a heartbeat in the world of racing. Over the last five seasons, since Denny Hamlin joined forces with the mastermind Chris Gabehart at Joe Gibbs Racing, the No. 11 team has seen the light of “winning capability” shine upon them 60 times.
“Yeah, the one constant in the playoffs has been Denny Hamlin and his team. And now this is a team sport so I don’t separate them. The #11 group had a loose wheel at Darlington, eliminating a potential win. And now Denny was snoozing on the restart, eliminating a potential win.” Letarte stated.
Steve further added, “But they have brought what I call, you know, playoff performance the five of Kyle Larson much the same for two weeks now. The five and the 11 have brought what I thought was the next level. Everybody says the postseason is the best step up for the postseason all these buzz words.”
Nate Ryan chimed in, acknowledging Kyle Larson’s victory at Darlington and his strong performance at Kansas, where he had one of the best cars. However, he also mentioned that Larson of Hendrick Motorsports faced strategic challenges during the final restart, with Denny Hamlin right there in the mix.
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What exactly went wrong during that race? Was it a lapse in focus or the moment’s pressure?
A Curious Case of Championships Eluding Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin was on the cusp of claiming both the Kansas race this season until a late-race wreck threw a curveball. A two-lap overtime shootout ensued, and the pit strategies turned as wild as a hairpin turn. Armed with fresh tires, Hamlin clawed back from eighth place to second but fell short of capturing the checkered flag, leaving fans breathless.
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Let’s rewind to lap 231 of that heart-pounding race. Denny Hamlin was living the dream, leading the pack with a 1.5-second head start over his rival, Tyler Reddick of 23XI co-owned by Hamlin. On lap 242, it was a two-man showdown, with Hamlin holding Reddick at bay, a mere 1.4 seconds separating them. The clock ticked, and lap 257 brought a revelation – Hamlin was cruising, his lead stretching to over 2.5 seconds. Green-flag racing had never been more suspenseful, stretching over 75 laps of pure adrenaline.
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But, as racing fate would have it, lap 260 introduced a twist. A caution flag waved, and Chris Buescher, another contender in the playoff drama, had a tangle with a tire, greeting the wall with a thud. While relatively minor in the grand scheme, it had one significant consequence – bunching the field back up. Once on the precipice of victory, Hamlin was forced to recalibrate his strategy. He ultimately outpaced Erik Jones for second place but fell short of catching the elusive Reddick.
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Sixty winning-capable weekends, 50 Cup Series wins, and zero championships—a narrative filled with twists and turns. This story keeps us all on the edge of our seats, waiting for the next thrilling chapter in the curious case of Denny Hamlin.


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