Jul 2, 2013, 2:53 PM EDT
In addition to being known more so as “The Intimidator,” the late Dale Earnhardt was also nicknamed “Ironhead,” mainly for his stubborn ways.
Given the beating his body – and more recently his noggin have taken this season – Denny Hamlin could be NASCAR’s new “Ironhead.”
Or at the very least, “Hardhead.”
Hamlin missed four races earlier this year with a compression fracture in his lower back, the result of a wicked wreck at Auto Club Speedway in suburban Los Angeles.
In Sunday’s rain-delayed Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, Hamlin slammed into the Turn 4 wall at high speed and admitted he had his “bell rung.”
But like a durable Timex, Hamlin takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Less than 24 hours after his wreck at Kentucky, he took part in the first of a two-day tire test up the road at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in preparation for the July 28 Brickyard 400.
He was also slated to test Tuesday.
While he may not be invincible, Hamlin is bordering on indestructible. Even with the four-week layoff, he is doing everything in his power to still make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The odds aren’t looking too good right now, however. Hamlin has nine races to make the Chase, is 281 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, and is 104 points out of the top 20 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr. currently holds that spot).
In addition, he has just three top-fives and one other top 10 in his 13 starts to date.
To make the Chase, Hamlin needs to do a number of things:
First, he has to climb into the top 20 (only those in the top 20 are eligible for the two wild card spots that qualify for the Chase). Given that he’s more than 100 points out now, nothing short of a top five or top 10 finish in the next nine races will do.
And that still may not be enough.
Second, he needs to win at least two races in the next nine. If he can pull off three triumphs, all the better, but it’s unlikely he’ll qualify for a wild card spot – even if he does climb into the top 20 before the start of the Chase – unless he starts winning.
Making matters worse, Hamlin has yet to visit victory lane thus far this season.
But there is some optimism to ponder: of the nine tracks upcoming, he’s won at six of them (four times at Pocono; twice each at Richmond, Loudon and Michigan; and once each at Atlanta and Bristol).
Add all those up and 12 of Hamlin’s 22 career Sprint Cup wins have been in the sweet spot of his season – and all upcoming.
Even though he complained of a headache after the Kentucky wreck, Hamlin still feels he can make the Chase – odds be damned.
“(I) definitely have to proceed on,” Hamlin was quoted in the Toyota post-race media transcript. “Really today it was the best performance for us in a while. Hopefully at least something to build off of even though we don’t have a good finish (35th).”
And even though he has so many obstacles to overcome, Hamlin is not giving up on making the Chase.
“We’re just going to try to win races and that’s what my job is for the rest of the year is to try to win and do the best I can for my sponsors and my team,” Hamlin said. “Really the biggest thing I was pushing for was to get my team into the Chase. Had an opportunity owner’s points-wise to get into the Chase and this is obviously another hit.”
And as for his ironhead or hardhead, Hamlin said of Sunday’s crash, “It’s very similar to Kansas of last year during the test day of the race weekend. Flat right side hit, especially, you are picking up a lot of speed off of (turn) four here.
“For me, it didn’t go down slowly like the tire did the first time — this one just blew out solid and quick. Obviously, when I lost steering I hit flat. I would rather hit head-on anywhere than flat up against the wall on these walls.”
If a driver would rather hit a wall head-on, he HAS to have a hard head, for sure.
Aug 20, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT
Amidst news that a grassroots campaign is building support for Tony Stewart, including plans to stand up and cheer during Lap 14 (Stewart’s race car number) of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, one question still remains: When will Stewart race again
Aug 20, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
The famed STP logo will once again grace the legendary No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports in Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Kyle Busch will attempt to win all three NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.
Aug 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Will Power and Team Penske have been dominant over the last several years at Sonoma, and if they are again, the IndyCar championship could be put out of reach.
Aug 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
If Mike Conway wins Sonoma this weekend, he’ll have his third win of 2014, and tie Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay with the most in the IndyCar field.
Aug 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Gabby Chaves to get new teammate in form of Ryan Phinny for Sonoma, at Indy Lights weekend finale.
Aug 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
NBA legend Dominique Wilkins tours Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 team during the Milwaukee IndyCar weekend.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
Le Mans champion Andre Lotterer confirmed for surprise Formula One debut with Caterham at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
Last year, reliability was the problem for Toyota’s engines, not power. This year, the situation has been reversed, and Toyota Racing Development’s president says they’re hunting for more performance ahead of the Chase.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:07 PM EDT
Alan Gustafson may not be as well-known as other crew chiefs, but it’s clear that he’s played a big role in Jeff Gordon’s success this season. The NASCAR AMERICA crew breaks down what’s made them such a good pair together.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA talks about Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing – and the impact of their new sponsor, telecommunications equipment company ARRIS.
Aug 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Coming up today: Reaction from 2015 JGR drivers Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez, and current JGR Cup drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch; No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson on the team’s win at Michigan; the Michigan edition of “Scan All 43.”
Aug 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Four days after racing in Michigan, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series faces the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway in Wednesday night’s UNOH 200.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
This weekend, Red Bull GRC drivers will compete on a .924-mile layout at Daytona International Speedway that’s the longest they’ve faced so far this year. Catch Saturday’s final at 2:30 p.m. on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT
Gibbs, who won two Sprint Cup titles with Stewart in 2002 and 2005, believes that his former driver has the courage to overcome his grief and eventually come back to racing.
Aug 19, 2014, 2:16 PM EDT
e.dams-Renault’s Sebastien Buemi puts up a lap of 1 minute, 31.792 seconds to lead the final day of testing at the UK’s Donington Park.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Eight years ago, the son of Michael and grandson of Mario broke through on the Northern California circuit.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
A final report from MotorSportsTalk’s Tony DiZinno on how the Milwaukee IndyFest went off.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
After success in Mexico and in the U.S.-based NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Suarez will take on the Nationwide Series next season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
NASCAR’s Chase Grid Live sweepstakes open until August 29; provides fans potential VIP trip ahead of Chicagoland Chase opener.
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