Homestead-Miami Speedway looked to be a place where both Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin could possibly secure their spots in the Championship 4.
That quickly changed late in the 4VER 400 on Sunday, as both Hamlin and Truex had very different issues right around the same time.
A massive turn of events.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 22, 2023
First was Hamlin as he got loose and slammed the wall hard, bringing out a caution. It was during that caution that Truex's engine appeared to let go, as he came to the pit lane with the car smoking out of the right side. That led to his No. 19 being pushed behind the wall.
As for Hamlin, the damage from hitting the wall while running third was enough to end his day.
Hamlin spoke with Racer.com's Kelly Crandall about his troubles.
"We tried and it just didn't work out," Hamlin said. "Unfortunate for this Sport Clips Toyota team. We really battled back well today — just a tough break."
Hamlin doesn't appear to be counting himself out despite going to Martinsville 17 points below the cut line. The same can't be said for his teammate Truex, who did not speak with the media after his exit from the race.
Both drivers looked to be top contenders for the 2023 championship throughout most of the season, but both now head to the final race of the Round of 8 below the cut line.
JGR owner Joe Gibbs told the media he thought both drivers' precarious playoff positions showed how competitive NASCAR is.
"I think it shows you how hard it is to get into the final four," Gibbs said. "I don't think anything's a given and certainly the 19, all they did the regular season, as good as they are, we've had real disappointments with everything that's happened. I think the 11 has been pretty consistent up until the last couple of weeks. The great thing is we have three cars from our team that have a chance. We still have a chance. We are going into Martinsville and I think it's going to be a classic but we do have a chance with both Denny and Martin."
Gibbs wasn't completely out of luck, as Christopher Bell was able to win the race and punch his ticket to the Championship 4 for the second consecutive season.
For Truex and Hamlin, it appears that only one of the two might be able to make it. But with such strong talent in William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick sitting ahead of them for the final two spots at the championship-deciding race in Phoenix, this might be the end of the playoffs for one if not both drivers.
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