Denny Hamlin Confesses He Jumped the Start

Denny Hamlin, winner of the 2024 Toyota Owners 400.

Getty Images Denny Hamlin, winner of the 2024 Toyota Owners 400.

Denny Hamlin won the Toyota Owners 400 on Easter Sunday, March 31. It was a controversial win by the “Jumpman.” After Bubba Wallace spun Kyle Larson with just two laps remaining, NASCAR sent the race into Overtime. On the restart, Hamlin jumped, a few feet early. Remember that phrase — a few feet early. Was it enough for NASCAR to disqualify him? No.

Fans watching on television were certain Hamlin jumped the start. Fans on track thought Hamlin jumped the start. Many in the media said Hamlin jumped the start. Did Denny Hamlin jump the start?

Hamlin says yes!

Yes, it was an April Fool’s joke. Of course, that doesn’t change what everyone saw. Or, what Hamlin himself later admitted on his own podcast.

Martin Truex Jr. is Still Upset

Martin Truex Jr. is upset, and he is right to be — though, most of the blame should go to him and his team for not closing out the race. Truex Jr. absolutely dominated at the Richmond Raceway. He led for 372 of the 407 (total) laps. With two laps remaining, however, an irate Bubba Wallace sent Kyle Larson spinning. A caution flag at that point sent the race into overtime. Wallace later apologized to Larson, but the damage was done — to Truex Jr.

A tough break for Truex Jr., no doubt. But he and his crew were caught flat-footed by Denny Hamlin, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. Hamlin’s crew had the quicker pit stop. Then, with the green flag signaling a return to racing, Hamlin had the quicker start.

Or did he?

Things went further south for Truex Jr. at that point, and he lost his composure. He got into a costly tussle with Kyle Larson, that completely backfired on him. Then bumped into Hamlin’s car during the cooldown lap.

That said, a lot of fans, and media, agreed with Truex Jr. Hamlin jumped the restart. The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck tweeted “Fox just showed the replay of the restart…yeah, Hamlin looks like he jumped.” FOX Sports announcers, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick, seemed to think Hamlin jumped the restart. Likewise, FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass, said “look, he (Hamlin) rolled the tires, right? Before he hit the line.” Pockrass then added, “but did he hammer the throttle before the restart zone?” His answer: “hard to tell.”

For their part, NASCAR stated they reviewed the restart, ruling it good.

Hamlin Finds a Way to Win, Again

Martin Truex Jr. was upset, countless fans were upset, but NASCAR upheld the win. Another win for Denny Hamlin.

The day after the race, April 1, Denny Hamlin went on his Actions Detrimental podcast and gleefully confessed. “I went pretty early in the zone.” Hamlin then further conceded that “I can see that on TV it looks worse than what it felt like in the car. That said, Hamlin’s discussion of the restart is worth a listen. He very cagily talks about how Joey Logano “dictated the restart” and how both Logano and Truex Jr. — in Hamlin’s view — were  “laying back.” And Hamlin took full advantage.

“I don’t see where I’m at in the (restart) zone,” Hamlin said on today’s podcast. “I concede it (the restart) is a few feet early.” But, NASCAR ruled it a clean restart, and awarded the victory to Hamlin. Fair enough. That’s racing. There’s a reason why Hamlin has 53 NASCAR Cup Series wins — more than any current driver, except Kyle Busch. Like his 23XI Racing co-owner, Michael Jordan, Hamlin understands that rules are never as clear cut as fans want to believe. There’s always a “zone.”

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