Denny Hamlin was watching Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car during qualifying when something caught his eye: The rear of Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports car looked different than the others.
"The Hendrick cars had something going on with the back of their cars that was...unique," Hamlin said. "They were the dominant cars. No one was going to run with them – especially the 48."
Hamlin said the body and tires were "moving quite a bit in the rear of the car." The Joe Gibbs Racing driver could only assume that had something to do with Johnson's dominating victory on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"They figured something out that is obviously working well," Hamlin said.
As for Hamlin, who finished sixth, he twice had problems on restarts when his No. 11 car suddenly wouldn't turn. After one restart, the pole-sitter dropped from second to 15th in a single lap.
"Whatever it is – and we did it again on the last restart – it laid on the front end and just took off dead straight," he said. "I don't know if it's because we had a car pushing us. It dug the nose in the ground, took the front tires off the ground. I couldn't steer it for a corner, and it did it again on last restart."
In general, Hamlin said it was "almost impossible" to pass due to the aerodynamic conditions at the flat, 2.5-mile oval.
"It's frustrating, but it's part of it," he said. "We come to this track that wasn't necessarily made for our cars, and it's just tough. Aero is so important anyway with our cars, but you put us on a flat track with a lot of speed, and it's going to be dramatic."