Denny Hamlin was caught a lap down in Sunday's NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway when a caution came out after he pitted under green on lap 208 – and spent the rest of the race trying to play catch up.
Hamlin caught a caution a few laps later and used the wave-around to get his lap back, but found himself deep in traffic with a car that was mostly unable to navigate through the field.
He blamed a lot of his day on the one-groove nature of the new Kansas surface and finished 13th – worst among the top four in points.
"We just never got a chance to race," Hamlin said. "Every run, I either had to save fuel or got caught by a caution and then go a lap down, get a wave-around and it's just – got caught by two cautions today.
“Nobody could pass anyone after five laps on the restart, so you do the best you can for five laps to pass guys and then you just ride around in circles until someone blows a tire."
Despite the struggles, he lost only five points to championship leader Brad Keselowski and now sits 20 points out of first with four races remaining.
With both Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson struggling at Kansas, Hamlin felt as though he lost a major opportunity to gain ground on his closest championship challengers.
"Well, this is a race where when you got the other guys you're racing finishing eighth and ninth," Hamlin said. "You've got to beat them, especially wrecked race cars that shouldn't be there. So we just shot ourselves in the foot a lot today. We'll just try to rebound at Martinsville. It's been a good track for us."
Martinsville could provide the opening that Hamlin needs. In 14 starts, Hamlin has won four times and has an average finish of 6.4. He won there three straight times from 2009-2010.