Last year, it was a race he couldn’t wait for and then he didn’t get to drive. This year, the hunger remains.
Two years after Denny Hamlin was injured in a last-lap crash racing for the lead, he returns to Auto Club Speedway this weekend in search of a better ending.
“My motivation is to go there and perform at a really high level,’’ Hamlin said. “It’s been circled for like a year or two now to run well there. I just didn’t get a chance last year and, hopefully, I will this year.”
Hamlin battled Joey Logano for the lead on the final lap when they made contact. Hamlin’s car shot down the track and slammed into a concrete wall inside Turn 4. He finished 25th and suffered an L1 compression fracture, which forced him to miss four races.
Hamlin returned to Auto Club Speedway last year eager to make amends for the win that got away, saying that the California track was “one of my top-three tracks I’d like to win at.’’
He never got the chance. While his car sat 13th on the starting grid, Hamlin was at a local hospital for a metal sliver in his eye that caused vision problems the morning of the race. Sam Hornish Jr. drove Hamlin’s car for Joe Gibbs Racing, finishing 17th.
Hamlin enters this weekend after a 23rd-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway that dropped him to 13th in the points standing. His last top-10 finish at Auto Club Speedway came in Oct. 2010 when he placed eighth. He has three poles at the track.
NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.
World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)
Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.
Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.
Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.
Friday, June 2
(All times Eastern)
- 1 – 8 p.m. — Craftsman Truck Series
- 4 – 9 p.m. — Cup Series
- 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
- 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)
Saturday, June 3
- 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
- 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series
- 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, June 4
- 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)
Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.
Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.
Friday, June 2
(All times Eastern)
- 6-11 p.m. — Xfinity Series
Saturday, June 3
- 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
- 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
- 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.
The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.
Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.
Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.
Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.
NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.
The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.
The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.
“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”
Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”
The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.
Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.
The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.
The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.
Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.
This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.