Hamlin’s Top-Five Finish Not Enough to Advance to Championship 4

Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Tyler Reddick’s Playoff runs ended in the Round of 8 as the trio of Toyota drivers just missed advancing to the Championship 4 on Sunday evening at Martinsville Speedway.


Hamlin led a race-best 156 laps and won the first stage before finishing third overall to leave the 51-time race winning driver eight points short of running for a title.


Truex qualified on the pole and led 47 laps early before suffering a speeding penalty on pit road in the early parts of the race, while Reddick battled handling and voltage issues throughout the event.


Toyota will continue its run as the only manufacturer to have at least one driver in each Cup Series Championship 4 with Christopher Bell. Bell, who finished seventh today, will compete against Ryan Blaney, William Bryon and Kyle Larson for the title.


Toyota Post-Race Recap

NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)

Martinsville Speedway

Race 35 of 36 – 263 miles, 500 laps



1st, Ryan Blaney*

2nd, Aric Almirola*


4th, Chase Briscoe*

5th, Joey Logano*




18th, TY GIBBS


*non-Toyota driver 




DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 3rd

Where did it go wrong for you guys today?

The mechanical failure last week with the power steering, that sealed our fate. I’m really proud of this whole FedEx Toyota team for showing up today when we really needed to, having probably a mid 50-point day. They did great. They did absolutely great. The 12 (Ryan Blaney) car was the best car today, so congrats to them. Hate we’re not in it with our FedEx Camry. Definitely I was happy with the performance we had today. Really all around. Just in the Round of 8 you can’t have one bad week. Unfortunately, mechanical failure takes us from running really well to in the 30s. That’s it.”


What’s the emotion like, not getting that opportunity?

“I just want to get ready and go try to win next week. I still love it so much because every week I feel like I got a shot to win. That’s what fuels my passion, even at my age, to keep doing this, is I’m with the team that I got that gives me such fast cars every week and gives me a chance to continue to pile on those stats before the end of my career. It’s not over by any means. We got a long way to go. Really happy about the year in general. I thought substantially faster this year at all racetracks than what we were last year. It’s racing, right? This is the Playoffs. You got a three-race season. The 12 (Ryan Blaney) car showed up this round, right? He deserves to be in that Final 4. The performance they had today was phenomenal. I’m just happy for those guys. One more week.”


CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 7th

Can you explain how this day unfolded?
“I don’t know – it was disappointing from my standpoint because I felt like I was going to be really good after yesterday’s practice, and it didn’t turn out, but seventh is a good finish and I’m excited about carrying the momentum into Phoenix.”


Can you give us a little preview of what you have going on for Phoenix?

“We are going to have a rocket ship. I can’t wait to get out there.”


MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 12th

How much different was the game once the speeding penalty happened?

 “It’s completely different. If we couldn’t find a way to flip track position pit stop-wise, we were never going to get there. Our car was good. The field is so tight, so close. Your car drives so much worse in traffic. I felt like we did really good to get back to where we did. You just burn the tires off so much worse back there in the hot, dirty track, dirty air. You’re in more rubber. It’s just a dogfight. I don’t know. We gave it a hell of an effort. I felt like we had a really strong car. I don’t think we could have beat the 12 (Ryan Blaney). He was really, really strong. We were definitely close. Something to work on for next time. Really disappointed. I mean, I thought I was well under speed leaving that box. Clearly we were speeding, so we have something to look at there. It’s devastating. That’s racing.”


How do you start to put your arms around what happened to you guys after winning the regular-season title?

Man, I think it just shows how tough this sport is. Anybody that races here and guys that have raced here that do the broadcasts, they’ll tell you. It’s this close, man. You find this little bit, and suddenly you look like a hero. Some other guys find some stuff, suddenly you’re not. We’ve been fast at times, but execution hasn’t been solid, hasn’t been consistent. We’ve had some bad luck. We’ve had a little bit of everything. Like I said, some years it feels like it’s your year, some years it feels like it’s not. I just feel we couldn’t do anything right. If it was ever a 50/50 call, it always went against us. A blown engine, a flat tire, you name it. Problem after problem. Just kept setting us back, and we couldn’t get no momentum. I think we did a great job today. It was a tiny little error, .2 miles an hour can ruin your whole year unfortunately.”


TYLER REDDICK, No. 45 The Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing

Finishing Position: 26th

Can you talk us through your day?

“It was a tough day. We were having issues with voltage, and some of the cooling systems were cutting in and out. It got really, really hot – that is for sure, but it wasn’t going to waver my willingness to drive really, really hard there. I was really hoping to get something more out of our day and get The Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD into the Championship 4, but handling wasn’t our friend today. We really, really struggled with multiple issues in the corners – just made for a long day. Qualifying better was really important for us, but still – we took a few stabs at it to get some track position and our car just wasn’t doing the things we needed it to today.”


Speedway Digest Staff
Follow Me
Latest posts by Speedway Digest Staff (see all)