Skip to content

‘Ironhead’ Denny Hamlin still thinks he can make the Chase

Jul 2, 2013, 2:53 PM EDT

Quaker State 400 - Practice Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. What might happen to Tony Stewart when District Attorney’s review of Kevin Ward Jr. case is completed?

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:54 PM EDT

    Attorney Steven B. Borkan (Photo courtesy of Borkan & Scahill LTD.) Attorney Steven B. Borkan (Photo courtesy of Borkan & Scahill LTD.)

    Tony Stewart is expected to learn later this week if he will not face charges or may be indicted in last month’s Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy. A noted attorney with extensive experience in death and catastrophic injury cases explained to MST the legal process in Stewart’s case.

  2. NASCAR America (video): Aric Almirola needs a good showing in New Hampshire

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT

    Aric Almirola Chicagoland 2014 Getty Images

    In his first-ever race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Aric Almirola suffered a blown engine at Chicagoland Speedway for the first time in his three-year career.

  3. NASCAR America (video): Dale Jr., Jimmie Johnson struggle in first Chase race

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT

    jj dale jr. 2014 Getty Images

    On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we recap how Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson struggled in the first race of the Chase.

  4. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR America at 7 pm ET — Chase race recap, RPM’s heartbreak, Ganassi’s drivers

    Sep 15, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT

    140915-NASCAR-AMERICA

    Monday’s edition of NASCAR America recaps all the highs and lows of Sunday’s opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, from Brad Keselowski’s win to Aric Almirola’s heartbreak.

  5. Great piece from Indy Star: John Paul Jr. keeps fighting

    Sep 15, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Indycar logo

    John Paul Jr. keeps fighting despite Huntington’s disease.

  6. Parker Kligerman weighs in on Indy Lights test (VIDEO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    kligerman Getty Images

    Parker Kligerman recaps his Indy Lights test at IMS.

  7. After heartbreaking Chase opener, Almirola already in must-win situation

    Sep 15, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

    Almirola Chicagoland 2014 Getty Images

    Aric Almirola came into Sunday’s opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup with high hopes of being perhaps the Cinderella of the playoffs, someone who would fly under the radar all the way to the final four season-ending battle at Homestead.

  8. PWC: Champions crowned in Utah

    Sep 15, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT

    WC

    Pirelli World Challenge race winners and champions crowned after Utah doubleheader.

  9. MRTI: Pigot, O’Ward, Jamin lead Griffis Memorial Test at IMS

    Sep 15, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Photo: Andersen Promotions Photo: Andersen Promotions

    Next generation of potential IndyCar drivers on display at IMS test.

  10. Mercedes names Pascal Wehrlein F1 reserve driver

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    Mercedes names 19-year-old its new reserve driver.

  11. MRTI: Josef Newgarden tests new Indy Lights car (VIDEO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:53 AM EDT

    Josef Newgarden Josef Newgarden

    Josef Newgarden tests the new Indy Lights car at IMS.

  12. It’s official: Marcos Ambrose will return to Australia to race V8 Supercars for Roger Penske

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:52 PM EDT

    Marcos Ambrose (left), along with NASCAR president Mike Helton. (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — One day after announcing he would not be returning to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2015, Marcos Ambrose made it official that he’s going home to his native Australia to and race in the V8 Supercars series for Roger Penske.

  13. Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tangle in wreck at Chicago — but it’s all good

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:48 PM EDT

    (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – Oh, how we’d love to be a bug on the wall when Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. get home after Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

  14. Jeff Gordon makes strong ‘Drive For Five’ start, also has high praise for Kyle Larson in Chase opener

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:18 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

    JOLIET, Ill. – In the first race of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Jeff Gordon took the first step in his “Drive For Five” – and put his best foot forward.

  15. How the 16 drivers fared in Sunday’s Chase opener

    Sep 14, 2014, 6:17 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – Sunday’s opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup was good for 12 of the 16 contestants, as they dominated the top-15 finishers in the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. But four others struggled and find themselves in a hole heading into the second race of the Chase.

  16. Keselowski surges between Harvick, Larson to win Chase opener at Chicagoland

    Sep 14, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images) Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — While Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick were jousting for the lead, Keselowski slipped up in-between them and then sailed right through with 15 laps left to win Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400, the opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway.

  17. Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon lead Chase opener at halfway point

    Sep 14, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

    keselowski joliet 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. – With 134 of the scheduled 267 laps complete, Brad Keselowski leads the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

  18. Even with new crew, Kevin Harvick’s pit road problems continue

    Sep 14, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Harvick pit crew richmond 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — Kevin Harvick made a celebrated trade of pit crews with Tony Stewart for Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 due to numerous mistakes and errors committed by his pit crew during the first 26 races of the regular season. Unfortunately, Harvick’s pit road jinx continued with the new crew.

  19. For 16 Sprint Cup drivers, the time is here: ready, set, Chase

    Sep 14, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT

    Sprint Cup trophy 2014 Getty Images

    JOLIET, Ill. — If Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 plays out the way folks in the garage were talking Sunday morning, there’s going to be at least a few surprises both in the course of the race and potentially in the outcome in the opening event of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Video from NASCAR America

Johnson's quest for a record 7th title
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Johnson (1529)
  2. K. Busch (1393)
  3. J. Logano (1208)
  4. J. Gordon (1188)
  5. B. Keselowski (1088)