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NASCAR not just losing Hamlin, but his buzz

Mar 27, 2013, 12:31 PM EDT

Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch AP

Denny Hamlin’s being out of action for at least six weeks is a greater loss than just his driving ability. Hamlin’s been in the eye of the media storm since before the green flag even dropped at this year’s Daytona 500.

Hamlin told The Dan Patrick Show on the eve of Daytona that Danica Patrick, had, in fact, garnered too much media attention given her results. But the attention she brought to the series was a net positive.

After Daytona, when Patrick won the pole and finished eighth, Hamlin and his now former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano began their budding rivalry. Hamlin wasn’t pleased with Logano’s moving around the track, not holding his line, in his Penske Racing debut.

A tweet addressed to Brad Keselowski from Hamlin read, “sorry I couldn’t get close to you cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time.” Clint Bowyer responded momentarily saying “2nd that,” while Logano later responded, “I remember when you were MY genius teammate. #LoveYouMeanIt.”

The year of Hamlin’s opinions, barely controversial although they were viewed that way in NASCAR’s eyes, continued after Phoenix when he said the series’ new Generation 6 cars had some ways to go to match the old cars in competitive terms. Hamlin was fined $25,000 by NASCAR for comments detrimental to the sport.

There was Bristol, where Hamlin spun Logano as Logano chased Jeff Gordon for the lead.

Finally, there’s this latest course of action where his contact with Logano has left him sidelined with a broken vertebrae. It’s the second straight year where an injury has taken a major star out of the sport (Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat out two races after suffering a concussion incurred at Talladega).

It’s also, in an amazing stat reported by the Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass, the first time in 21 years of JGR in NASCAR that a driver has been forced out due to injury. In 2011, Kyle Busch was suspended for the fall Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Texas, and Michael McDowell subbed for him in the latter event.

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