Skip to content

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

Jul 2, 2013, 2:53 PM EST

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. Is the world ready for another Rowdy Busch? Kyle, Samantha hint a baby boy is on the way

    Nov 27, 2014, 8:04 PM EST

    (Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    NASCAR star Kyle Busch and wife Samantha dropped a very big hint that their first child may be a boy.

  2. IndyCar’s Graham Rahal, NHRA’s Courtney Force engaged

    Nov 27, 2014, 7:28 PM EST

    (Photo: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage) (Photo: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)

    IndyCar driver Graham Rahal and NHRA driver Courtney Force announced their engagement Thursday in Venice, Italy.

  3. Police seek cause of death of race fan found near Talladega

    Nov 27, 2014, 5:57 PM EST

    Theresa Benn (Photo courtesy Lincoln, Ala. Police Department) Theresa Benn (Photo courtesy Lincoln, Ala. Police Department)

    Police continue to investigate the cause of death of Theresa Benn, who had been missing more than a month before her body was found last week near Talladega Superspeedway.

  4. MST exclusive: BK Racing co-owner Anthony Marlowe apologizes for Cole Whitt/David Ragan tweet controversy

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:23 PM EST

    (Photo courtesy Anthony Marlowe/Twitter) (Photo courtesy Anthony Marlowe/Twitter)

    BK Racing minority owner Anthony Marlowe offers a public apology to MotorSportsTalk on his inadvertent tweet of Cole Whitt replacing David Ragan in the No. 34 car for 2015.

  5. Give thanks: NASCAR announcer Steve Byrnes shows ‘progress’ in cancer battle

    Nov 27, 2014, 2:16 PM EST

    Steve Byrnes Steve Byrnes

    Steve Byrnes of Fox Sports gave friends and family a promising Thanksgiving update about his battle with Stage 4 head-and-neck cancer.

  6. Hulkenberg confirmed for Porsche LMP1 at Spa and Le Mans

    Nov 27, 2014, 10:45 AM EST

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Previews Getty Images

    Hulkenberg gets an LMP1 opportunity with Porsche at Spa and Le Mans next season.

  7. What we’re thankful for in the motorsports world, 2014

    Nov 27, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Irwin Tools Night Race Getty Images

    What we’re thankful across the wide spectrum of motorsports in 2014.

  8. Spend Black Friday doing a few laps on Charlotte Motor Speedway

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:01 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Terry Renna) AP

    If you’re in the Charlotte area and want to have a great Black Friday experience, head on over to Charlotte Motor Speedway, where for a donation, you can drive on the actual racetrack.

  9. Sam Hornish Jr. has much to be thankful for: new home, renewed Sprint Cup hopes with Richard Petty Motorsports

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:56 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) AP

    Sam Hornish Jr. has a lot to give thanks for this Thanksgiving, most notably a new ride and a new lease on his Sprint Cup driving life with Richard Petty Motorsports.

  10. NBCSN presents 14-hour ‘MECUM MARATHON’ on Thanksgiving Day

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:40 PM EST

    mecum dealmakers

    NBCSN will present a 14-hour ‘Mecum Marathon’ starting Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.

  11. Simon Pagenaud’s Ayrton Senna tribute helmet to be auctioned off

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Getty Images

    Simon Pagenaud’s Indy 500 Senna tribute helmet to be auctioned for Ayrton Senna Foundation.

  12. Report of Cole Whitt in for David Ragan at Front Row Motorsports ‘not true’

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:29 PM EST

    David Ragan (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Front Row Motorsports officials on Wednesday denied rumors of Cole Whitt replacing David Ragan in the No. 34 Ford for 2015.

  13. F1 notes and quotes: Abu Dhabi Test Day 2

    Nov 26, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    ADwrap Getty Images

    A rundown through the field after the final day of on-track running for F1 2014.

  14. Several NASCAR AMERICA specials to run over next month

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    nascar america

    Some NASCAR AMERICA specials are on tap before the end of the year.

  15. “Dream come true” for Italian Raffaele Marciello in Ferrari test

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    MarcielloAD1 Getty Images

    Marciello gracious for opportunity, and was thinking of Jules Bianchi throughout the day.

  16. A.J. Foyt still hospitalized but recovering after triple bypass

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    Foyt112614 AP

    A.J. Foyt with post-operative complication, but resolved.

  17. Mercedes reserve Wehrlein leads final Abu Dhabi test day to end 2014

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:13 AM EST

    WehrleinAD1 Getty Images

    New Mercedes driver, same place on the charts to close out 2014 F1 season.

  18. Life after Red Bull now beckons for JEV, where a new world awaits

    Nov 26, 2014, 10:31 AM EST

    Vergne 17-11 AP

    What’s next for Jean-Eric Vergne? An analysis of his time in F1, and where to from here.

  19. Jean-Eric Vergne confirms Toro Rosso exit

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:28 AM EST

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    JEV out, and likely another rookie in at Toro Rosso for 2015.

Video from NASCAR America

Kevin Harvick's well deserved Sprint Cup
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1710)
  2. J. McMurray (1705)
  3. T. Stewart (1631)
  4. J. Johnson (1265)
  5. J. Logano (1207)