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Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2007

Commentary: Hamlin has no regrets about earlier outburst

July 5, 2007

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Following the NASCAR Nextel Cup race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin was in no mood to apologize to people he may have offended after the May 12 race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

He was too busy celebrating.

Hamlin's victory in the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 was the first of the season for Hamlin. It solidified his second-place position in the series points standings, represented 10 seeding points for the upcoming playoffs and moved him 15 points closer to leader Jeff Gordon.

And it also might have validated some of the things he said during a fit of anger after the race at Darlington.

Hamlin finished second that day in May. He wasn't very tactful in saying that he should have finished one place better, and he also talked about other victories he should have had this season.

His problems, he said, could be traced directly to his pit crew.

"If we lose about 20, 30 points when it comes down to the championship," Hamlin said after Darlington, "we know exactly where we lost it, and that's on pit road. I gave away Phoenix, that's my fault. But there are two to three other races that we had the best car most all day and even at the end, and just gave it away on pit road. Today was a prime example of that."

A couple of days after Darlington, big changes were made on Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing over-the-wall crew. Several crew members were let go, and a couple of others were moved to new jobs.

While he was still dripping after celebratory drink-spraying Sunday at New Hampshire, Hamlin didn't back off when asked about things he said after Darlington.

"Honestly," Hamlin said, "I really wouldn't have done things much different from the way I did, because really, our team, I felt like, is tight enough to where that just drives them."

Hamlin did express one regret, though, when he was asked whether it might have been a better idea to rip his crew in private.

"Maybe I would have held back and not said anything," Hamlin said. "But when you lose the races that we lost because of that and we knew that winning was at such a premium for those bonus points, whoever wanted to talk to me, I was going to let them know exactly how I felt."

Sunday's victory came as a direct result of work in the pits. Crew chief Mike Ford, knowing Hamlin's car was not the fastest on the track, called for just a two-tire stop late in the race that gave him a lead he never gave up.

While the race at Darlington in May will be remembered as the one that produced angry words by Hamlin, the hope is that the race at New Hampshire will be remembered for turning around the season.

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