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Denny Hamlin clinches 2021 NASCAR Playoffs berth

Denny Hamlin has secured himself a spot in the 2021 NASCAR Playoffs.

The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota clinched a berth by virtue of AJ Allmendinger, a non-playoff eligible driver, winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. Hamlin finished 23rd in Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard — race No. 24 of the season — but nearly scored the victory himself before contact from Chase Briscoe with two laps to go sent him spinning from the lead.

RELATED: NASCAR Cup Series standings

Hamlin entered the inaugural event tied for most points in the NASCAR Cup Series — sharing 917 with Kyle Larson — even without a win. When it came to the playoff picture, Hamlin was 302 points above the final spot, and with that kind of cushion, he was the only driver capable of clinching solely on points. A win would have done the trick, too.

Hamlin has qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs 15 times now — every season in which he did not miss multiple races. The current four-round format was introduced in 2014.

Last season, Hamlin made it all the way to the Championship 4. He ultimately placed fourth in the final standings after finishing fourth in title event at Phoenix Raceway. Hamlin also reached the Championship 4 in 2014 and 2019. In 2016-17, he was eliminated in the Round of 8. He was cut in the Round of 12 in 2015 and then in the Round of 16 in 2018.

Hamlin was the NASCAR Cup Series’ runner-up in 2010, his best-ever finish in the series standings.

Two regular-season races remain, starting with FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway next Sunday (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The finale will then be Aug. 28 at Daytona International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with the Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Hamlin has won twice at Michigan and three times at Daytona.