Denny Hamlin Radio Communication Reveals Chaos During Ross Chastain’s Miracle Move and Complete Dejection After Crossing Finish Line and Realizing What Just Happened
Denny Hamlin could taste it. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was just a matter of turns from advancing to his fourth straight Championship 4. Within feet of the finish line, the three-time Daytona 500 winner, who has yet to claim a title despite a Hall of Fame-worthy career with 48 Cup wins, saw it all go away in a red blur.
Ross Chastain pulled off the “Martinsville Miracle” with a video game move of riding the wall, which allowed him to vault from 10th to fifth in the final couple of turns with a record-setting lap on the half-mile track and stamp his ticket to a shot at the title in Phoenix.
Like everyone else on the planet, Hamlin had no idea what was happening until it was too late to react. And the radio communication revealed as much, starting with a moment of panic, followed by a moment of complete disbelief and dejection, knowing that the guy who had been a thorn in the team’s side much of the year had just pulled off one of the greatest moves in the sport’s history and eliminated them from the championship hunt.
Denny Hamlin in position to advance to Championship 4
With four laps remaining at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin clung to a one-point advantage above the playoff cutoff line over Ross Chastain. A lap later, it was all even, with the Trackhouse driver holding the tiebreaker advantage.
With two to go, Hamlin made a couple of passes and again surged back in front with a two-point advantage. Chastain appeared done, and NBC’s Jeff Burton said as much from the booth.
“Chastain doesn’t have anybody in front of him to go pass,” Burton said. “He’s too far away from everybody.”
After taking the white flag, Hamlin held the fifth position, and Chastain battled five spots back in 10th on the final trip around the half-mile track.
Then it happened.
Hamlin learns of his playoff fate
Heading down the backstretch, Chastain selected turbo mode and blasted around the wall on the outside of the track, reportedly at speeds 50mph faster than his competition.
“Watch the 1 outside of you here,” spotter Chris Lambert told his driver with the first communication about the rapidly-approaching car. “Outside! Outside! Outside!” his voiced instantly picked up in intensity with a sense of urgency but there was nothing Hamlin could do.
The communication went silent for 14 seconds.
“I guess we just lost on that,” the driver radioed, painfully breaking the silence.
“Well, I’ve never seen anything like it,” crew chief Chris Gabehart told him. “But Bell wins, he’s in and the 1 Hail Mary-ed the fence in (Turns) 3 and 4 and got in.”
Just latest meeting between two this season
Chastain’s move will be talked about for the rest of NASCAR history. It was that memorable. And it capped off a breakthrough year for the Trackhouse driver, including a pair of wins and making it to Phoenix. It was also a year that the watermelon farmer will forever be linked with Hamlin.
In June at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Hamlin held off Chastain for multiple laps as the Trackhouse driver was frustratingly unsuccessful trying to pass the JGR car. Eventually, the driver of the No. 1 had had enough and drove into the rear of the No. 11, sending it into the wall.
“We all have learned the hard way, and we’ve all had it come back around on us, and it will be no different,” Hamlin said after the race about what Chastain might expect in the future.
A month later, Hamlin was in front at Atlanta when Chastain got into his left-rear quarter panel, sending the JGR car for a spin. After the race, the veteran driver addressed the latest incident.
“Everyone has different tolerance levels, certainly, but you guys know I’ve reached my peak,” he told reporters.
At Pocono in July, Hamlin finally responded late in the race on a restart, squeezing Chastain on Turn 1, which resulted in the Trackhouse car sliding up the track hard into the outside wall and ending his day.
“Oh Parker, I think that’s something that’s been owed to me for a few months now,” Chastain told NBC’s Parker Kligerman after exiting the infield care center.
Some still thought Hamlin owed payback. The 41-year-old could have dispensed it at Martinsville, but the younger driver raced smart and managed to avoid him. Until that surreal finish when he caught up with the No. 11 car and passed him just feet before the finish line and knocked him out of the playoffs.
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