Denny Hamlin hasn’t changed his thoughts about Sunday’s controversial finish at Talladega Superspeedway that ended his championship hopes.
Reigning champion Kevin Harvick made contact with Trevor Bayne shortly after the green flag dropped on the final restart, something that Hamlin and his teammate, Matt Kenseth, allege Harvick did to preserve a spot among the final eight drivers in the eliminator round.
Harvick claimed that he didn’t see Bayne and he simply moved up the track with a bad engine, a story that NASCAR backed by declaring Harvick did nothing wrong after investigating the incident.
I’ve been very nice to people I feel like have done me wrong, but you know, you keep a scorecard in your head.
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Hamlin, though, isn’t buying it. The No. 11 Toyota driver made that much clear during an appearance at Cool River Café on Wednesday to help promote the AAA Texas 500 on Nov. 8 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“It’s the safe play for them,” Hamlin said of NASCAR’s ruling. “It’s very easy to say we can’t be inside someone’s head and know exactly what they’re thinking.
“It’s just disappointing. Kevin Harvick is a pretty good driver. He had just run 180 laps at 200 mph three-wide, but he doesn’t see a car running 30 mph right beside him? I mean, common sense every now and then has to take over.”
The sting of being knocked out of the Chase was evident in Hamlin’s answer. He truly believed he had a strong chance of winning a championship, and what a story it would have been.
Hamlin has been driving with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that he suffered playing basketball in September. He will undergo surgery on it after the season.
Hamlin tore the ACL in his left knee in 2010, as well, and bounced back well. He won the spring race at Texas weeks after the surgery, and then completed the season sweep later that fall to join Carl Edwards (2008) as the only drivers to sweep the Cup races at TMS.
Now, however, Hamlin has been relegated to a spoiler role.
That’s my goal, to go out and show we’re still guys that probably should have been racing for this championship. There is no better way than doing that by going out and winning races.
And it’s safe to say that Hamlin and his crew will be well aware of where Harvick is in every race going down the stretch. Retaliation could ultimately haunt Harvick, who has rubbed Hamlin the wrong way in previous races too.
“You just don’t cut them any breaks,” said Hamlin, who finished runner-up to Harvick in last year’s Chase. “I’ve been very nice to people I feel like have done me wrong, but you know, you keep a scorecard in your head.
“You don’t give that person that inch when they need that inch. And sometimes you need that inch and you’re just not going to get it … not in the near future anyway.”
Hamlin is now focused on helping his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates — Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards — try and win a championship for their organization. Of course, Hamlin also wouldn’t mind adding a third win to his season résumé.
He should have a chance, too, considering he has a strong history at the remaining tracks. He’s won five times at Martinsville, site of this weekend’s race, and twice at TMS.
“That’s my goal, to go out and show we’re still guys that probably should have been racing for this championship,” Hamlin said. “There is no better way than doing that by going out and winning races.”
Spring at TMS
Martin Truex Jr.
*Hamlin failed to advance in the Chase