Top-five finish at Indy does little to make Denny Hamlin happy

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Denny Hamlin’s best finish in more than three months meant little to him after he lost the lead in Monday’s Brickyard 400 coming to the white flag.

Hamlin’s third-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway normally would be seen as a way to build momentum into the playoffs, which begins next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But Hamlin would have none of that. He was frustrated with his finish and with some other cars.

“I don’t care about the playoffs at this moment. All I care about is not winning this race,” said Hamlin, who sought to add an Indianapolis victory to the crown jewel wins he’s scored in the Daytona 500 and Southern 500.

“It’s big on my list of races I wanted to win and the team gave me the car and we certainly were capable of doing that.”

Had he won, it would have left him needing to win only the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway to triumph in each of the sport’s four major races.

Instead, his chances went away after a caution with six laps to go for a crash between Landon Cassill and Jeffrey Earnhardt. That caution eliminated Hamlin’s lead and gave Brad Keselowski, who was on fresher tires, the chance to pass Hamlin for the win.

“Just those meaningless cautions at the end by drivers multiple laps down,” Hamlin said. “What they’re doing crashing with three laps to go, I have no idea. It cost us the race.

Hamlin’s finish Monday was his first top-five result since placing third at Charlotte in May.

“We deserved to win this race,” said Hamlin, who led 37 of 160 laps, tying Clint Bowyer for most laps led. “We had the fastest car or one of them. Us and (Bowyer) were very strong. I hate that the cars that caused the caution had nothing to do with this race.”