Feud Of The Week: Denny Hamlin Vs. Life
There were plenty of frustrated drivers after Matt Kenseth won the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday and in the process scored his fourth race victory of the year.
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson dominated the event, leading 182 of 267 laps, but cost himself the race when botched another restart, just as he had at Dover a few weeks back.
Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his hopes of victory dashed in the most random manner possible, when a tire casing flew off another car and hit the splitter on Earnhardt's car, ruining its aerodynamics.
But the guy who left Kentucky the sorest - figuratively and literally - had to be Denny Hamlin, who suffered through two right-front-tire failures, the second of which sent him hard into the wall, leaving him 35th in the final race results and with his bell rung to boot.
With just nine races left in NASCAR's regular season, Hamlin is now 104 points out of 20th place, a gap of more than two full races. In the eight races since returning from the broken vertebra he suffered at Auto Club Speedway, Hamlin has posted four finishes of 30th or worse and has virtually no chance at all of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Hamlin nearly won the championship in 2010 and in seven full seasons piloting the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing entry has an average points finish of 6.43. Now, he's 25th, with just four top-10 finishes in 13 starts this year.
After his wallbanger at Kentucky, Hamlin said all the right things, but you could hear the resignation in his voice as his season continues to slip slide away.
"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."
Let's hope for Hamlin's sake it's the last thing he hits for quite a while.