The radio conversations with their teams were different — Hamlin’s had stronger language — but the frustration was similar for both after 400 laps Sunday at Richmond Raceway.
The two drivers who appeared set to duel for the victory — just as they had last month at Bristol — were left to watch Alex Bowman win.
Sunday proved similar to previous races this season for Hamlin, who was strong but has yet to win a quarter of the way through the season.
“It’s frustrating for sure,” Hamlin said after losing the lead to Bowman 10 laps from the finish. “I’d rather be where I am than Alex Bowman. I don’t care that he’s got a win. We’re smashing everyone. I’d still rather be where I’m at.”
Bowman will take his victory and spot in the playoffs, especially since he entered the race outside a playoff spot.
Hamlin does have a point, though. He won both stages, giving him a series-high five stage wins this season. He led a race-high 207 laps, the second race in a row he’s led at least 200 laps. His runner-up finish is his eighth top-five result in the first nine races. He’s the fifth driver all-time in Cup to start the season that way, but he’s the only one to do so without a win.
“It doesn’t change my attitude or work ethic,” Hamlin said of not winning Sunday. “I’m going to work just as hard to win next week and the week after that. You’re a competitor, you want to win. Especially when you have a great opportunity to win.
“It just didn’t happen. I just got to digest it, look at it and see where we could have been a little bit better. But ultimately, there’s nothing I can do. My effort was as high as it could be. There’s nothing that’s glaring that I feel like I could have or should have done different.”
Logano also did not expect Bowman to win. Logano and Hamlin were side-by-side on the final restart with 12 laps left.
“I thought we were going to be a battle between the front row, especially the way we launched on the final restart there,” Logano said. “Just could barely hang on to (Hamlin)’s quarter(panel) down into (Turn 1). I thought, ‘Maybe I can roll the top here.’ Got there, the front just wasn’t woken up yet. Wasn’t turning for about three laps. Obviously (Bowman) was in a different league for about five laps.”
Bowman admitted he had not been good on short runs all race. Bowman was third on the final restart, situated on the inside of the second row and behind Hamlin.
“My strong suit all day was being able to get into the corner really deep,” Bowman said. “I was able to get in deep, aside Denny. I knew I had the preferred lane, could probably clear him. I kind of figured he would get right back to me and be faster than us.
“When we drove away, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what’s happening?'”
Logano wondered the same thing.
“(Bowman) kind of made us all look kind of goofy there for a minute,” he said.
Had there not been a caution, could Hamlin have passed Logano for the win?
“We were in good position,” said Hamlin, who took the lead with a faster pit stop before the final restart. “I mean, it was 20 to go or so, we were obviously faster. Trying to be patient there. But, yeah, who knows.”
Instead, he saw another win slip away.
“We should have won,” Hamlin said. “Certainly (Bowman) wasn’t better than us all day. Just got to lead the last lap. You’ve got to figure out how to lead the last lap, that’s pretty much all that matters.”
It rhymes with duck.
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) April 19, 2021