Oh for the want of a couple dollar part. Last week at Martinsville Speedway Denny Hamlin had a chance to not only go to the front of the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings but at the very least move him to the top and in serious contention for the championship. It was of course one of his best tracks on the schedule, one which he has had great success on.
The day before Denny Hamlin dominated the Truck race even though he hasn’t driven in the NASCAR Truck Series since the Pocono race in August his only other Truck start this year. He drove from the tail of the field to the front and won the race. In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race he started fifth, had a very fast car. He was so fast he was able to pass the entire field of cars not once, but twice due to speeding penalties on pit road. Hamlin said when asked about the penalties.
“I was doing what the crew chief said. I don’t know if that’s the right thing as far as NASCAR is concerned, but they assured me that there was no way the speed on entry with the timing lines and so I think that there was a little bit of an underestimation of how quick these cars can launch when you do take off. I think that there was something more to that than what we thought. Nothing we couldn’t overcome. We still drove our tails right back up to the front twice and passed the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) about four times. It just sucks it’s got to end this way, but we’ve just got to suck it up and move on.”
At Martinsville Speedway if you are able to pass any number of cars, you not only have a great car but are also a great driver. To pass the field twice means you have one incredible car and are really good at that track. Denny Hamlin was certainly on his way to winning the race and moving himself into contention for the chase. Then the car simply shut off in the straight away. Ouch!
Hamlin did the best he could to diagnose what happened and fix it while still on the track and more importantly on the led lap since he knew he could just pass all those cars again since he was that good. He wasn’t able to do so. Hamlin said, “I was hoping that possibly when I down shifted coming down pit road that I somehow cycled the ECU and I thought that maybe that was the problem so I shut it off and tried to get that working again with no luck. It’s just something that we couldn’t control.”
In the end it was the main power switch for the whole car that was malfunctioning such that the computer parts of the car were thoroughly confused. I don’t know about you, but if I was able to diagnose that, I would have ripped the switch out of the dash and used my tongue to make the connections and continue on. That isn’t going to happen at almost 100 MPH or even 50 MPH so Hamlin had to go to the garage and lose lots of track position, effectively taking himself out of the chase.
Denny Hamlin is now in fifth place, 49 points or more than one race behind in the standings. Jimmie Johnson is in first and Brad Keselowski is in second 2 points behind. Those two drivers are the only ones left with a chance for the championship. Clint Bowyer is third 26 points behind and Kasey Kahne is fourth 29 points behind.
So it is now a two man race, or is it? Hamlin gave up approximately 29 points due to his misfortune. Johnson and Keselowski might just be racing each other for the championship but anything can happen, just ask Denny. It isn’t over until it is over.
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