Tag Archives: Denny Hamlin

NASCAR Wants a Level Playing Field

If you know me or know my writing I am about as independent a writer as they come. I don’t have an agenda. What pains me is that in social media on many occasions people talk about NASCAR being fixed.  I can tell you from experience that is not true.

This past week Denny Hamlin won. He burned the tires down; wrecking his car big time. NASCAR is, understandably so, thinking that he did it to hide something. He may be, he may not be, but that is what NASCAR is all about. They want, above all else the playing field to be even.

In my independent status NASCAR or the Tracks have given me access to the inspection process. I can tell you never, and most people say never say never, but I can tell you never has anyone kept me from watching and asking questions during that process.

Photo By Brian Berg Jr.
Photo By Brian Berg Jr.

I can tell you first hand that every car no matter a Champion, future Champion or also ran; they all go through the same process. There are no favorites. Each and every one is judged the same. NASCAR has been all about making the players play by the rules.

Photo By Brian Berg Jr.
Photo By Brian Berg Jr.

That doesn’t mean that the players (NASCAR Teams) will find ways to bend or extend the rules but I can guarantee that NASCAR will fix that if they find it.

Feature Photo Credit: 320826 by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

 Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Does Anyone Have Anything for Superman at Martinsville?

Jimmie Johnson has as perfect a driver rating at Martinsville Speedway as a driver can have of 118.4.  This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to action from the Easter break. Does anyone have anything for Jimmie Johnson?

To reiterate a perfect driver rating is 150. The only way a driver can have a perfect rating is if they lead all the laps and win the race. It is impossible for a driver after many races, in this case 22 races to have a perfect rating. A dominating driver will have a rating of 120. Johnson is almost there.

If it was up to me we would race at Martinsville more than two times a year, it’s a special place for me, and my Lowe’s team.” Johnson added, “I had a great weekend off with the family, we are still so excited to have won California and heading to one of my favorite tracks. I’m ready to get back behind the wheel.

Martinsville is one of the hardest tracks in NASCAR. That is what makes Johnson’s driver rating so impressive. There is hope though.

Denny Hamlin, the winner of this race last year, also has an impressive driver rating of 110. Of active drivers Hamlin is second only to Johnson in wins with five to his eight.  Jimmie Johnson has not won this race since the spring of 2013.

I think it will be another fight this weekend to get the win at Martinsville. We have had a lot of success over the years at that track and seem to battle the same guys each year for the win.” Hamlin added, “Jimmie (Johnson) is obviously strong there and our teammates will be tough to beat. Friday’s qualifying is big in terms of getting a good pit stall and on Sunday it’s important to have a mistake-free race. Any sort of issue or penalty can get you a couple laps down in a hurry and spoil a good day. I believe our FedEx Camry will be up front competing for another win.

As Denny Hamlin noted it is important to have a mistake-free race. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick will be there to pounce and scoop up the win. Last year Joey Logano and his teammate Brad Keselowski worked well together but just couldn’t get it done in spite of leading many laps between them in both races. They will also be a factor. If any of these drivers can qualify up front and race mistake free they will have something for Johnson or Hamlin.

If you cannot get to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500 it will be broadcast live on FS1 Sunday April 3rd, 2016 at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 318109 Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

Driver Rating
Martinsville Speedway
STP 500
Provided by NASCAR Statistics Stats Represent Points Races From 2005-Present
Rank Car Driver Team Avg. Finish High Rating Avg. Rating
1 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s 6.9 149.1 118.4
2 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground 8.1 141.1 110.6
3 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Nationwide 11.9 133.1 99.4
4 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s 75 15.1 133.4 96.5
5 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John’s 14.7 129 94.6
6 15 Clint Bowyer Aaron???s 13.7 127.9 92.5
7 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil 14.9 121.9 89.7
8 2 Brad Keselowski AutoTrader 15.5 114.9 87.8
9 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald???s 16.8 114.4 86.9
10 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar 14.5 109.6 86.5
11 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General 13.9 134.6 85.9
12 19 Carl Edwards Arris 15.5 121.1 81.5
13 41 Kurt Busch Monster Energy / Haas 21.2 115.8 80.2
14 14 Brian Vickers Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 19.2 112.4 79.4
15 5 Kasey Kahne Panasonic 20.5 112.8 77.5

Kevin Harvick the Legend

Kevin Harvick led the whole regular season, the clear winner for the NASCAR Championship. Harvick won the regular season by 30 points over Joey Logano. He took that confidence with him into the Chase.

In the opening media event prior to the Chase, Kevin Harvick called out the Joe Gibbs Racing teams who had been his only apparent competition the last few races before the Chase. “I think we’re going to pound them into the ground,” Harvick said. “That’s what I think. Hopefully, they can beat themselves.

It didn’t happen that way. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin won at Chicagoland Speedway, the first race of the Chase after Harvick raced his fellow Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson too hard and cut a tire to fall way back on his bid to repeat as Champion.

The next week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Harvick was again racing at the front to continue his effort to a second Championship only to run out of fuel at the end of the race. Matt Kenseth, another Joe Gibbs Racing driver capitalized on this to move himself into the next round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. At this point it was apparent that Kevin Harvick would be plagued by his words to open the Championship. He also was in a very deep hole in points putting himself in a must win position at Dover International Speedway, a track he has never won at before and one he has not done well at.

There was other wisdom that Harvick uttered prior to Chicagoland that, he is glad held no truth. Harvick said about the Joe Gibbs teams, “Well, you can’t be good once every three weeks.  You got to be good for 10 weeks.  I know those guys have run fast.  It’s been a different Gibbs car that we’ve raced against for the last 10 weeks.  As a company, they’ve had some good success in winning races, but it hasn’t been the same car.

Well Kevin Harvick has done exactly what he said wouldn’t work. He has run good once every three weeks and has won at Dover to move himself up into the Contender round of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. Above all else Kevin Harvick has created a legend, one of a fierce competitor who never lets circumstances change his demeanor and approach to the task at hand. He used to be called the closer or “where did he come from” at the end of races. Now he will be called that about finishing championships. How else can one, who has never won at a track, step it up to seemingly do the impossible to stay alive in order to win a championship?

“Oh yeah. Anytime you can go through moments like this and gain some momentum and prove to yourself that you can do things like this, there’s no way you can’t be stronger. I’m just do proud of those guys and so proud of our fans and everybody for all their support all week.” Harvick added, “There it is, stay the course. That’s what he (Tony Stewart) always says. Tony is just one of those guys who always puts everybody before him and that’s really what makes Stewart-Haas what it is. It’s just a lot of fun to be a part of this team.”

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing

From Junk to Gold, Denny Hamlin Wins the Chase Race at Chicagoland

The first NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup race is in the record books. Denny Hamlin has won the myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway capping off a weekend that didn’t start out the way it was intended.

On Friday, the number eleven FedEx Ground Toyota hit the track for the first practice full of hope but unable to get out of its own way. Dave Rogers, Hamlin’s crew chief, made wholesale changes to the car prior to qualifying. Qualifying was canceled due to rain and his troubles in that one practice were magnified because the field was set by practice speeds. Denny Hamlin would have to start the race today 29th, the last of the Chase drivers.

Rogers said, “We did have a lot of adversity.  You know in the Chase you’re going to have adversity, it’s going to strike.  We’ve been talking about it, been trying to mentally prepare for it.

In Saturday’s practices it was apparent that the team was able to fix whatever was wrong with the No. 11. Hamlin was the second fastest in the first practice and seventh fastest in the final practice. A great improvement but he still had his less than desirable starting position to contend with.

Indeed, his starting position became a problem right from the start. On lap two, the No. 47 AJ Allmendinger car got into the right front of Hamlin’s car, sending him for a spin. He was able to save it and not get hit by any other cars so there was little or no damage. He did go a lap down.

On lap 130 just after a restart on lap 128, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin used strategy to try and get their laps back by staying out and not pitting. This was a risky strategy given the lack of caution flags in the beginning of the race and record pace the leaders had been setting. That strategy paid off on lap 137 when Kevin Harvick hit the wall hard after cutting down a tire; this put both of them on the same pit strategy and tires with the other lead lap cars.

There was a caution flag with ten laps to go and Hamlin’s team had confusion whether to pit or not. He ended up staying out, what at the time looked like a disastrous move. Denny Hamlin restarted third and drove it like he stole it taking Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon three wide. It stuck and he held them off for the three laps even though he had older tires.

It was ballsy, but I’d been stuck so many times three-wide in the middle. The front cars almost have a disadvantage to the back cars the way it all plays out.”  Hamlin added “We got a great restart and I just held it wide open through (turns) one and two and it stuck. We were able to get in that clean air and take off.

Denny Hamlin has tied Chicago Area Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen for 27th on the all-time wins list with 26 wins.

Carl Edwards finished second followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

Denny Hamlin has now punched his ticket straight to the next round of the Chase, The Contender Round. The team can now use the next two races to continue to get better for the next two rounds.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312813 Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images

NASCAR Sprint Cup Qualifying is Rained Out at Chicagoland Speedway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came to Chicagoland Speedway to kick off the Chase to the Sprint Cup. With the weather man predicting rain at the end of the day prior to qualifying many of the teams cut practice short to run qualifying runs. Unfortunately the weather man and the teams were correct and the rains did come.

In practice, Kevin Harvick was the class of the field in his mock qualifying run posting a time of 28.675; 62/100 faster than Joey Logano. Harvick was the only driver to get into the 188 MPH level. Since qualifying was canceled the lineup will be started according to the rule book and Kevin Harvick will lead the field to green this Sunday with Joey Logano alongside.

As expected most of the sixteen Chase Nation drivers were fast and at the front of the leaderboard. Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. will be in the second row. The other Chase drivers are as follows: Ryan Newman 6th, Kyle Busch 7th, Kurt Busch 10th, Jeff Gordon 11th, Jimmie Johnson 12th, Matt Kenseth 13th, Jamie McMurray 14th, Carl Edwards 15th and Paul Menard 17th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin had trouble during practice and will start 20th, 27th and 30th respectively. Of those three, Denny Hamlin appeared to struggle the most. When Hamlin’s crew got him ready for a mock qualifying run it did not help. He remained 30th quick. Later in the garage they were making wholesale changes to the car, even changing the rear axle. Fortunately for those teams there is another practice on Saturday to work on making those cars better.

Ryan Blaney and the #21Wood Brothers Ford will miss the race for a third time due to rain. Blaney would most likely made the race on time had there been qualifying. Michael McDowell #95 and Travis Kvapil #30 will also miss the race.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312735 Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images