Perhaps the best example of the impact of the carnage that occurred in Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was that only two of the top 12 finishers were remaining NASCAR Cup playoff contenders.
Hamlin regretted not pushing runner-up Ryan Newman enough in the closing laps. Hamlin felt that if he had, he would have finished higher.
“Maybe I should have pushed the 31 a little bit longer or passed him in a different spot. I was a foot shy of clearing him. And I knew if I could clear him, the runs were going to be real small because there was very few cars out there.
“I did what I wanted to do, push him out there to the lead, stay attached and then make a move, but I guess I didn’t do a very good job the last two laps. … You always want to win, screw the points.”
Newman saw the finish line ahead of him when he and Keselowski came out of the final turn, but the latter was too strong and Newman couldn’t keep up as they roared to the checkered flag.
“I’m really disappointed that we didn’t win,” Newman said. “When there’s only that many cars running, you want to be the guy. We were close but we just got double-teamed there. The 2 (Keselowski) and 22 (Penske teammate Joey Logano) hooked up and it was all I could do to try and stay in front of them.
“We’ll take it for what it’s worth and keep digging. I wish we were still in the playoffs, but we’re not and we’ll keep moving our way up if we can. … It is what it is.”
Even with significant right front damage from a wreck several laps earlier, fourth-place finisher Logano was a factor almost all the way to the end.
“I told the guys while we were sitting under the red flag that we can still win this thing,” Logano said. “They did a great job fixing this car. The car was fast from the get-go. And then I just got caught up in a stretch on the backstretch, and they fixed it up we had a never quit attitude, to just keep fighting and try to pull ourselves up to a spot to win.
“I pushed Brad to the lead and then I thought now it’s my turn to get to the lead, I want to win this thing. … I just really want to win at this point, so anything less than a win hurts.”