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Hamlin, Joe Gibbs 11 Have Work to Do on Pit Road

A dropped jack on the final stop may have cost them a chance to win.


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Pit road continues to be the historical impediment standing between Denny Hamlin and even more victories throughout his 17-year career in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11.

Hamlin potentially lost another chance to battle for a win on Sunday evening at Richmond Raceway on the final green flag stop of the race (Lap 352) when the jackman dropped the car before the left front lug was completely secure.

It took roughly an additional two seconds to finish the stop and Hamlin went on to finish fourth and 3.8 second behind race winner Kevin Harvick. If it was an uneventful pit stop, with less traffic to navigate, Hamlin is arguably right there in the mix to sweep both races at Richmond.

"Woulda, shoulda, coulda," Hamlin said on pit road after the race. "I did everything I could to drive as hard as I could and optimize my lap times. We were on the right strategy and I knew the lap times we were running was good enough to win.

"We came down pit road and I nailed the entry to pit road, I thought I rolled really well. We got the right sides done quick and the left sides were the mistake."

Hamlin has been guilty of speeding on pit road over the past decade-plus, and they lost a chance to win last week at Michigan due to an extra crew member going over the wall to catch a tire before the issue with the jackman at Richmond.

When asked if he wanted to see any changes to his over the wall crew, Hamlin said 'no' and that it's just a matter of them getting better before the playoffs.

"No, they just have to clean it up," Hamlin said. "Just got to get reps. The good news is we didn't drive off with a loose wheel. They dropped the jack and I saw the hiccup happening. Just big-time auto racing. I wish the pit road missteps would be at the beginning of the race instead of at the end. …

"We have the right guys on our team, we picked the guys on our team and they nailed it 9 out of 10 times," Hamlin said. "They're elite. They had one hiccup and it was just at the end of the race."

Crew chief Chris Gabehart says pit road continues to be the biggest hurdle for the team, and it always has been even before his tenure atop the pit box.

"I mean, golly, if the 11 car isn't the poster child for needing to execute at every facet of the game to win these races," Gabehart told Racing America after the race. "Two weeks in a row, having a chance to win, but more than that, I just don't know.

"We're going to keep working on it. I have an excellent group of guys clearly. I mean, we're capable of winning every week. And the pit crews have an immense amount of talent. They're just struggling to get that last little bit to get us across the finish line."

Gabehart chalked this incident as a ‘fluke thing’ but last week was too.

"It happens every now and then to the best of them," Crandall said. "It just hurts. It's on the last stop when we're in a really good, really good spot to have a chance to contend for the win. These guys will get it together. They're pros, they'll figure it out. It's just right now, we're licking our wounds every week. And that's painful."

Gabehart has always contended that this team is one of the most dangerous contenders approaching the playoffs and still is.

"Even more so."

Hamlin and Gabehart have been perpetual contenders over the past three months, even with the setbacks on pit road at Dover, Michigan and Richmond.

"The past 10 races, you know, Indy Road Course is kind of a wild card, but the other tracks where we're turning left, you see our potential. We've really found our stride on the car side of things. But none of it matters, and we won't make it very far if we don't fine tune the details."