Jul 2, 2013, 2:53 PM EST
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.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:30 PM EST
When he went looking for a new crew chief to replace the soon-to-be departing Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ultimately didn’t have to look very far.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EST
Kasey Kahne looks for success with new crew chief… and another Super Bowl for his Seahawks.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:30 PM EST
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway was arrested last week and charged with indecent exposure and lewdness.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:09 PM EST
Conor Daly finally set for an IndyCar test this offseason, with SPM.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:33 PM EST
After coming so close last season, Ryan Newman is ready to fight for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015 — and he’s bringing his brass knuckles to give him a hand.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:01 PM EST
Car owner Rick Hendrick said he consulted with Jeff Gordon about if to retire the No. 24 after this season.
Jan 29, 2015, 5:42 PM EST
One week after announcing he was retiring after the 2015 season, Jeff Gordon told NASCAR America that he wants to win his final Daytona 500 and also walk away with his fifth career Sprint Cup championship.
Jan 29, 2015, 4:42 PM EST
IndyCar’s Brasilia, Brazil race set for March 8 has been canceled.
Jan 29, 2015, 4:35 PM EST
Jimmie Johnson will again embark on a quest for his seventh Cup title, but he acknowledged and embraced Thursday he’s not the story at Hendrick Motorsports for 2015.
Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Jeff Gordon in final season, he just has to win 14 races and championship
Jan 29, 2015, 4:12 PM EST
There’s nothing like putting a little pressure on a guy, especially in his final season. Team owner Rick Hendrick expects Jeff Gordon to win 14 races and the championship in 2015!
Jan 29, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Today’s NASCAR AMERICA runs for an hour and has a heavy No. 24 theme.
Jan 29, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
Ganassi, Sabates praise McMurray’s start to 2015.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:41 PM EST
Although he grew up a Jeff Gordon fan and was counseled by Gordon on his future, Kyle Larson will watch someone else drive the No. 24.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:35 PM EST
Fresh off a team win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Kyle Larson not only is keeping time better, he says it’s also time to win some races and contend for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:52 PM EST
The 2014 Xfinity Series champion is announced as Jeff Gordon’s successor a day before his father, Bill Elliott, is inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
British youngster will combine this role with a full season in GP2 with DAMS.
Jan 29, 2015, 12:10 PM EST
The 2014 Xfinity Series champion will make his Sprint Cup debut in March before moving full time to NASCAR’s premier series in 2016.
Dover Motorsports Inc. releases earnings report, sets sale of Nashville Superspeedway for end of February
Jan 29, 2015, 11:51 AM EST
Dover Motorsports Inc., one of only two independent track ownership groups in NASCAR, released its fourth quarter and yearly earnings report on Thursday. That included significant news on the pending sale of the DMI-owned Nashville Superspeedway.
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