Denny Hamlin unable to capitalize on last-lap fireworks at Martinsville

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — As Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. bashed fenders on the last lap of Sunday’s Martinsville race, Denny Hamlin had a simple, yet blunt thought.

“Crash harder,” Hamlin thought. “Just crash harder.”

If Logano and Truex took each other out shy of the finish line, Hamlin could have secured his first Cup win of 2018 and ended a 43-race winless streak.

But they didn’t wreck. Logano and Truex got sideways as they barreled down the frontstretch, with Logano able to pull away at the last second.

As Truex fishtailed, Hamlin dove his No. 11 Toyota to the inside of Truex’s car and finished second.

It was his third top five in the last four races. Two of them have been runner-up finishes.

MORE: Truex’s crew chief shows frustration with Logano’s

MORE: Truex call’s Logano’s contact a “cheap shot”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has three races left to extend his streak of seasons with a win to 13.

Hamlin, who won Stage 1 and was fourth on the final restart with 37 laps to go, lamented having a weak car on short runs.

Hamlin also gave more discretion to teammate Kyle Busch on the final restart and as they raced in the closing laps.

Busch remains the playoffs. Hamlin was eliminated at the end of second round.

“I don’t think I would do anything different,” Hamlin said. “I rode behind (Busch), trying to be respectful of him.  Obviously, his situation, you don’t want to move a teammate out of the way, especially if he needs that one point when it comes down to the end.”

When it came to letting Busch get in line on restarts, Hamlin “would expect the same things from my teammates if I was in that situation.

“That part of it stinks. It’s two-fold, you hope you’re the guy getting let in next time. We worked really well together as teammates. I thought it was a great team effort. Hoping one of our cars would get a win, but obviously it didn’t. We all had a good showing. Looks like the two Toyotas that are left obviously are in a good points position.”

After he finally passed Busch and then Brad Keselowski, Hamlin “just ran as hard as I could” to track down Logano and Truex in the final three laps.

The two playoff drivers raced side-by-side for much of the last five circuits of the .526-mile track.

“I knew something would happen,” Hamlin said. “I just wanted to be as close as I could, hopefully capitalize. Just a tenth (of a second) away.”