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NASCAR At Richmond: Denny Hamlin Makes Chase, But Not The Way He Wanted

When Denny Hamlin wrecked just a few laps into Saturday night's NASCAR race at Richmond, his Chase hopes suddenly seemed very much in doubt.

Hamlin was already hanging on to a wild card position as it was. Now, it seemed, he would need to rely on another driver failing to win the race in order for Hamlin to make the playoffs.

"That was not what I planned on happening," said Hamlin, who has been the best Richmond driver of the last few years, along with teammate Kyle Busch.

Hamlin was able to salvage a ninth-place finish (see the full results here) after his crew "did the best job I've ever seen them do as far as fixing the car."

Even so, Hamlin didn't control his own destiny once the wreck occurred. If David Ragan had won the race, Hamlin would have missed the Chase.

"It was nerve-wracking because every person that could win and then knock us out was running up front all day long," he said. "If it wasn't one guy, it was another."

"Very nervous moments," he added.

After finishing second in last year's Chase, though, Hamlin had higher expectations for the season. Certainly, he could have never imagined he'd start the 2011 playoff from the rear.

"There's only one place to go from where we're at right now, and that's forward," he said. "It's kind of a second lease on life for us and our season.

"We've got some momentum. Who knows what's going to happen next week?"