Denny Hamlin shuffled to back of field early due to flat tire, falls one lap down (UPDATED)

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Pole sitter Denny Hamlin led the first 24 laps of today’s Eliminator Round finale in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup at Phoenix International Raceway, but is now one lap down after being sent to the back of the field due to a flat tire.

Hamlin had been running in the Top 5 leading up to a debris caution at Lap 31. But after he went in with the leaders for stops, Hamlin reported that he may have suffered a broken shock on his right-rear corner.

As it turned out, it was actually a flat right-rear tire. He was forced to come in a second time to replace it; ESPN reported that the valve stem of the tire was somehow knocked in, leading to the failure.

Hamlin’s girlfriend, Jordan Fish, tweeted a pic:

Meanwhile, Hamlin was subsequently shuffled back to 37th for the restart at Lap 36. He had climbed back into the Top 30 by Lap 50, but couldn’t advance further in traffic. On Lap 76, race leader Kevin Harvick passed him in Turn 3 to put him one lap off the pace.

With the bonus point he got from leading a lap, Hamlin now needs to finish 12th or better today to advance to the Sprint Cup Championship Race next weekend at Homestead.