Once again disappointment swept over Denny Hamlin as he saw his chance to capture the NASCAR Sprint Cup title die at Martinsville despite a dominant car that faltered, as did the driver.
The pilot of the FedEx No. 11 Toyota was a favorite to win the Tums Fast Relief 500. He started fifth on the grid.
Hamlin had a very fast car that could take him to the lead. It was fast enough to get him through the field twice after two costly speeding penalties on pit road.
There was little doubt that Hamlin was capable of winning the race. Four of his 22 career wins have come at Martinsville, where his average finish was 6.4 heading into the race.
The driver for Joe Gibbs Racing has won five races this season, but he has made it clear repeatedly that the team was giving away too many points.
Going into the Martinsville race he was 20 points out of the lead, but after the race he was 49 markers down having completed 466 of 500 laps with a 33rd-place finish.
It almost seems he is destined to be denied a championship in NASCAR's elite series.
There was just over 100 laps to go when Hamlin's car sputtered and the driver began flipping switches in the cockpit in hopes of keeping his car running.
The car looked as though it came to life for a few laps when it began to falter, and NASCAR warned the team that he wasn't maintaining adequate speed on the track.
In a sight that must have felt like an arrow through the heart of the team, the car slowed to a stop on the frontstretch, causing the caution flag to wave.
The car was taken to the garage with what appeared to be a giant swarm of crew members in and around the car trying to discover the problem.
It was the failure of the master switch on the car that caused the problem. In recent history, one could probably count the times such a thing has happened on one hand with several fingers to spare.
Hamlin was clearly very disappointed during a post race interview when he spoke with a pit reporter for ESPN.
The driver stated, "When these things happen you have to suck it up and go on."
Hamlin has the talent to win a title, fast cars and a champion crew chief with Darian Grubb. Unfortunately, his team also makes mistakes, and they have been costly.
Three races remain in the season, but Hamlin knows that regardless of how well he runs his chance at the title has been erased for 2012.
While the team is sucking it up for the rest of the year, they need to work on eliminating miscues as they prepare for the 2013 season.
Hamlin may need to dwell on his upcoming fatherhood and let yet another year's worth of hoping to capture the title fade after fate turned the tables on him at Martinsville.
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