Did NASCAR Create a Denny Hamlin Monster?

(RaceTalkRadio.com; March 7, 2013)

I love NASCAR racing!

OK so I love all kinds of racing but there has always been something magical about the NASCAR brand. Ever since I saw that first clip on ABC’s Wide World of Sports I was hopelessly hooked. Sometimes I wonder if NASCAR the corporation understands why fans like me have loved this sport for so many years. (Since 1969 in my case) After fining Denny Hamlin for violating Section 12-1-A, “Statements too truthful to make NASCAR happy,” I am left wondering if NASCAR has created a Denny Hamlin Monster.

Why do we love NASCAR so much?

Even in this day and age when our favorite driver is a gazillionaire after a few successful seasons in the sport they are still real. Guys like Clint Bowyer show that emotion every weekend win or lose, often more entertaining when they get wrecked and lose. These guys and gals get out of the car after lap after lap of being on the edge of spinning out and get a microphone shoved in their face before they get to cool off. They speak their minds. That is a brand of real we the fans do not get in any other sport.

Denny Hamlin didn’t say the food at the NASCAR restaurant tasted awful!

NASCAR the organization has the right to defend their brand and those drivers and crew within NASCAR need to understand that too much negative talk will turn off the more casual fan. Like many things with NASCAR though the things about the sport that might turn off a casual fan are the things about the sport that diehards like me love. NASCAR had “Rabbit Ears” this week and elevated a minor comment by Hamlin into a major deal. Heck us NASCAR fans were excited that a new race weekend was here and had already forgotten what Denny Hamlin said in any detail.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip uses the analogy that if you tell the patrons the food tastes lousy at your restaurant it is not good for business. But Denny didn’t say the food was lousy. Denny said the new dish at his favorite restaurant wasn’t as good as it could be. Denny Hamlin said that he was frustrated he couldn’t pass for the lead. In Denny’s defense there were ZERO passes for the lead after lap 127 and only 4 green flag passes all day. Yes Hamlin also made a comment that the old car passed better than the new car. Of course it did. NASCAR Crew Chiefs had figured the COT out and in the first race at Phoenix without any testing the Gen Six car was still a mystery.

What should NASCAR fine guys for every week?

Denny Hamlin left everything on the playing field last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. Hamlin could have settled for a solid top five finish but he drove like a mad man down on the apron trying to find somewhere on the track to make that pass for the win. If he had gone any farther south he would have had to present his passport at customs! We the fans fell in love with NASCAR because this is how our guys drive.

Hamlin could have lost 25 points and only gained 5 but he wanted to win that bad. That is the kind of racing the fans want to see. “Common men doing uncommon things,” is what the legendary Ken Squier used to say to define a move like Hamlin made on Sunday. Immediately upon getting out of the car Denny Hamlin let his frustration show about the Goodyear tires being too hard (Two tire stops proved that) and the ability to pass other cars being too tough. NASCAR should be proud of Denny Hamlin that he wanted to win so badly! Any driver who dares to say, “Well we had a good point’s day,” should be immediately guilty of violating Section 12-1-A and fined $50,000.

NASCAR spent so much time in the off season building up this new Gen Six car that I am surprised these cars couldn’t walk across Lake Lloyd and heal the lepers in Calcutta. This new car is beautiful to see on the track and NASCAR fans with a working brain understand that it will take a while until these brilliant Crew Chiefs figure out the sweet spot on this car. Why didn’t NASCAR just take Denny Hamlin aside on Sunday and say, “You came a little close to that magical line, please tone down the anti Gen Six comments or we will have to fine you.”

Last Sunday I was thoroughly entertained with the race at Phoenix. Being a stats guy I understand the lack of passing at a track that typically used to give us some of the best races of the year is an issue. Goodyear had not found that sweet spot with the rubber here with the old car but finally got close last year so I didn’t expect them to nail it the first time out with this new Gen Six car. But they will get it right. This race was in the rear view mirror with fans but NASCAR fining Hamlin so late in the week and Hamlin saying he wasn’t going to pay the fine took the Las Vegas testing out of the headlines. Now I am wondering if I was wrong to be so entertained last week. I am also left to wonder if NASCAR has created a Denny Hamlin monster instead of having him as the poster child for the kind of racing fans want to see.

Don’t miss Doin’ Donuts every Monday night. Lori Munro and Dennis Michelsen are joined with their usual racing buddies for a great night of talking NASCAR racing including the infamous Quick Change segment…the fastest growing game show in NASCAR. Jerry Bonkowski, Steve Waid and even famous drivers like Snott Williard show up every Monday night to voice their opinions about the weekend that was in racing here on RaceTalkRadio.com at 8pm ET.

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