A week after Denny Hamlin won the biggest cash prize of his NASCAR career, he nearly pulled off a feat in the Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600 Sunday only a few drivers before him have done at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hamlin won last Saturday’s All-Star race, and its one million dollar payout, in convincing fashion.
After his win from the pole in the All-Star race, many had Hamlin, who had never won a Sprint Cup point’s paying race at Charlotte, as the favorite to win NASCAR’s longest race the Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600. Sunday he nearly obliged those who considered him a favorite coming just a few laps short of winning and becoming the eighth driver to do so the last being Kurt Busch in 2010.
Hamlin led twice for a total of 53 laps the second stint coming at an opportune time. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was leading in the closing laps and had not only enough speed to hold off the rest of the field but enough fuel to make it to the end. But a loose wheel with 34 laps to go sent Hamlin to the pits under green and left him rejoining the field deep in the pack. Just prior to the stop Hamlin reported to his crew that he wasn’t feeling well. He had reported his engine sounding different shortly before and the speculation was that exhaust fumes had made their way into the cockpit. As he raced his way forward and the laps wound down, the engine seemed fine and Hamlin reported no more symptoms.
Hamlin finished the race eighth. As soon as he parked he was taken to the infield care center. After a few minutes of treatment Hamlin emerged and said he was okay.
“A lot better now,” he said. “I knew when my knee was sore afterwards that it was probably fluids. My off-day was 36 holes of golf and a full tennis match. Probably over did it a little bit this weekend. I think the dehydration led to a migraine and just felt nauseous the last 100 laps or so. Thank goodness, that didn’t cost us the win.”
After leaving the care center, Hamlin immediately worked his way to the media center. He was able to congratulate his new teammate Carl Edwards who scored the win and reflect on his won missed opportunity.
“Just the bad end of that strategy and what not,” said. “But still proud of our FedEx Office team for really giving me a car that could contend for a win. This is a good sign and congrats to Carl (Edwards), this is an awesome two weeks really for our organization.”
Hamlin said it was tough to finish the race. The Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR’s longest race and is always tough on equipment and drivers.
“I was borderline throwing up trying to race for the lead,” he said. “You just try to power through it and of course when you run well, you always feel a little bit better, but when the race is over and everything comes to a stop you realize how bad you feel. A lot better now with fluids and everything. It was directly related to hydration.”