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.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
IndyCar star looks to go one better after four straight class runner-ups at Sebring.
Mar 11, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Outside of IndyCar’s power teams, Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne Racing remain one of the top underdogs.
Mar 11, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Year 2 for Graham at RLL should, on paper, be substantially better than Year 1.
Mar 10, 2014, 7:16 PM EDT
The F1 supremo is bracing for an unpredictable year in the series.
Mar 10, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT
The Ford Motor Company’s director emeritus died yesterday at 88.
Mar 10, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
The makers of the beloved NASCAR comedy filed a trademark lawsuit last week in federal court.
Mar 10, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT
Brad Keselowski talks about his Vegas triumph. Plus: More on Dale Jr.’s white-hot start and Jeff Burton’s breakdown on how the new rules package impacted yesterday’s race.
Mar 10, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT
The Penske troops do the wing-and-beer thing in their team shop.
Mar 10, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT
The new simulator, expected to be used heavily by IndyCar teams and other automotive groups, is set to be fully operational by the end of April.
Mar 10, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
The outspoken Canadian tells a pair of Italian publications that Vettel’s “not going to win this year for sure.”
Mar 10, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Five prior Melbourne winners in field as F1 begins new era this weekend.
Mar 10, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT
Teams will use Pirelli’s medium and soft compounds in this weekend’s F1 season opener Down Under.
Mar 10, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Big year for Pocono in terms of contribution to Pennsylvania economy.
Mar 10, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
2014 marks 10 years since Michael Schumacher’s fourth and last win in Melbourne.
Mar 10, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT
David Reutimann third driver in revolving door of No. 35 FRM Ford.
Mar 10, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Race winners, top-10 finishers off to great start; three of four SHR cars among those with work to do to catch up.
Mar 10, 2014, 10:06 AM EDT
No LMP1s and mostly streamed live coverage will make for a different Sebring viewing experience this weekend.
Mar 10, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Youngest American in the field could be primed to make the “year three leap.”
Mar 10, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Tony Kanaan takes over No. 10 Target ride, and seeks a return to title contention.
Mar 9, 2014, 8:56 PM EDT
A late strategy gamble pays off for Edwards with his best finish of the young Sprint Cup season.
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