Denny Hamlin, driving the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, finished a disappointing 29th at Atlanta on Sunday for the NASCAR Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. The newly paved Atlanta Motor Speedway made for the steepest racing in the sport, leading to a lot of bunch formations and side-by-side racing. Similar to the exciting brand of racing you’d see at Talladega or Daytona, the racing conditions at Atlanta were exciting for fans but difficult for drivers.
At a glance
- Denny Hamlin continued his disappointing start to the 2022 NASCAR season at Atlanta, finishing 29th
- Atlanta Motor Speedway debuted their fresh asphalt, the first new pave since 1997
- William Byron picked up his third win in 149 starts at just 24-years-old
Hamlin didn’t point to the new asphalt — which many racers objected to during the offseason — as a reason for his troubles. He did, however, speak frankly about his season thus far. “We had a really fast FedEx Camry,” he said. “I was just trying to help Kyle (Larson) there and I just needed to let him go off turn four. The track gets light there, the car starts to lift up and that’s where I needed to back off of him and I just didn’t and spun him out.
“It is a shame. Our car was really fast. We definitely slowed after the first part of the damage; we were involved in that first wreck. Overall, just frustrating, but we are running well, we are just finishing horrible.”
Hamlin also said he is to blame for the early-season issues, but that racing comes down to split-second decisions. “I’m just making some bad decisions,” he continued. “It’s easy in retrospect to say I should have done this, and I should have done that, but in the moment, you are trying to battle for some stage points there and we’ve got good grip, and I’m pushing him, and everything is going well and then all of a sudden the car lifts up and he’s gone. Just split-second decision making.”
After six starts this season, Hamlin and his team sit 26th in the Cup Series standings with 79 points, zero Top 5 finishes, and zero Top 10 finishes.
Denny Hamlin had a tough day in Atlanta, but in NASCAR, someone else always had a day to remember
Thanks to the fresh pave — the first in 25 years for Atlanta Motor Speedway — this race immediately set a track record for leaders (20) and lead changes (46). The race also slowed frequently with 11 cautions spanning 65 laps.
Winner William Byron, 24-years-old and driving the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, said the day was “a lot of fun.”
“[The track] was kind of an intermediate style with a little bit of superspeedway to it, so it was lot of fun,” Byron said after celebrating the win with his team. “Thanks to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Super exciting.
“It was so different, you know, honestly, the last few laps there, just trying to manage the gap to Bubba (Wallace) and trying to not get too far out front. My spotter Brandon (Lines), it’s his first win so congrats to him and just thanks to this whole team. They’ve done a great job this year. There’s a lot of changes with the Next Gen car.”