Blown tire takes air out of Denny Hamlin’s championship hopes

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Denny Hamlin became the second of the five remaining Championship 4 contenders to see their hopes go up in smoke.

Chase Elliott made contact with Hamlin with about 50 laps to go in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway. Then, about seven laps later, Hamlin’s tire finally blew out from the contact, sending him into the wall, sustaining enough damage to knock him out of the race.

Hamlin joins Jimmie Johnson, who suffered a blown tire that also knocked him out of contention for what potentially could have been a record eighth Cup championship in next Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hamlin took a slight shot at Elliott for the incident.

“It just proves to the people that thought I was a bad guy that he’d do the exact same thing under the exact same circumstances,” Hamlin said. I got into him and he chose to retaliate and so I’m in the garage and that’s the way it is.”

Hamlin had arguably the strongest car of the day, leading 193 laps before wrecking, surpassing the previous fall race mark of 190 laps at Phoenix.