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. Race Recap: Hamilton sees off early Williams threat and late rain shower to claim third home victory

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) holds the trophy as he walks in the pits after winning the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 5, 2015.  
 AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The British driver sends the home crowd into raptures with his third Silverstone victory.

  2. Ten with Townsend: Red Bull GRC 4 races in, post-MCAS New River

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    GRCDaytona Getty Images

    After the latest Red Bull GRC round, we catch up with NBC Sports Group motorsports analyst Townsend Bell for a special Red Bull GRC installment of “Ten with Townsend.”

  3. Smiling Through the Rain: Silverstone proved that it isn’t all doom and gloom in F1

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 05:  Fans cheer Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP after his victory in the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Luke Smith gets a little patriotic following his home grand prix, explaining why F1 could stand to be a little more British in its mentality.

  4. Ken Block seizes opportunity, wins Red Bull GRC at MCAS New River

    Jul 5, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    BlockMCASwin Getty Images

    Block wins at MCAS New River, Round 4 of the Red Bull GRC season.

  5. FIA stewards take no action over five-car incident on first lap of British Grand Prix

    Jul 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2015 in Northampton, England. Getty Images

    Grosjean, Ricciardo, Maldonado, Alonso and Button all cleared of any wrongdoing after first lap incident.

  6. WATCH LIVE: Red Bull GRC from MCAS New River at 5 p.m. ET on NBC

    Jul 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    OMSEdaytona Getty Images

    Before NASCAR resumes on NBC from Daytona, see Red Bull GRC pick up its season from its first race after Daytona, at MCAS New River.

  7. F1 Paddock Pass: British Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

    Jul 5, 2015, 3:06 PM EDT

    xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2015 in Northampton, England. Getty Images

    Will Buxton brings you all of the post-race interviews and analysis at Silverstone.

  8. Alonso takes “small joy” from first point of 2015 season

    Jul 5, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2015 in Northampton, England. Getty Images

    P10 at Silverstone gets Alonso off the mark in 2015.

  9. Manor scores best result since Monaco 2014 at Silverstone

    Jul 5, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 04:  Will Stevens of Great Britain and Manor Marussia drives during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 4, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens finish 12th and 13th at Manor’s home race.

  10. Massa frustrated to lose podium finish in late downpour

    Jul 5, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Williams Martini Racing's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa (L) leads Williams Martini Racing's Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas during the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 5, 2015.      AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Brazilian driver forced to settle for fourth place at Silverstone on Sunday.

  11. Ricciardo sidelined by electrical issue in British GP

    Jul 5, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 4, 2015 in Northampton, England. Getty Images

    Issue on the Renault power unit forces Ricciardo out of the race at Silverstone.

  12. Hopes of first win fade for Bottas due to team orders, late rain shower at Silverstone

    Jul 5, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Williams Martini Racing's Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas and Williams Martini Racing's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa (R) race during the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 5, 2015.       AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF        (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Could today have marked Valtteri Bottas’ first victory in Formula 1?

  13. Vettel thanks rain for podium finish at Silverstone, doubts Williams made a massive step

    Jul 5, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel holds a trophy after taking third place in the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 5, 2015.    AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A late rain shower allows Vettel to claim Ferrari’s first podium finish since the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.

  14. Rosberg recovers to second at Silverstone, praises Hamilton for late pit call

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 05:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP makes a pit stop during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After a poor start, Rosberg fights his way to second place at Silverstone, but slips further behind Hamilton in the drivers’ championship.

  15. Emotional Hamilton tears up on last lap of British GP, thanks fans for support en route to win

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 5, 2015.
 AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hamilton won his home grand prix for the third time on Sunday after seeing off a spirited challenge from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and both Williams drivers.

  16. Hamilton weathers the storm to claim third British GP victory at Silverstone

    Jul 5, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton races during the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 5, 2015.      AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hamilton beats the weather and the field to record his third victory at Silverstone.

  17. GP2: Haryanto claims third sprint race win of season

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    © GP2 Series © GP2 Series

    Rossi charges to fourth place in spite of a time penalty.

  18. WATCH LIVE: British GP Race Day on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET

    Jul 5, 2015, 7:15 AM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the qualifying session at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 4, 2015 ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix.      
 AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF        (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Can Lewis Hamilton win for a third time on home soil? Or will Nico Rosberg spoil his homecoming?

  19. What to watch for: British Grand Prix (7:30am ET on CNBC and Live Extra)

    Jul 5, 2015, 6:31 AM EDT

    Williams Martini Racing's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa (L) shares a joke with Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton after the qualifying session at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 4, 2015 ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton took pole ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg with Massa in third place.
 AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Everything you need to know ahead of today’s race at Silverstone.