NASCAR

Denny Hamlin has had a hard road back

HARD ROAD BACK
How should Joe Gibbs handle Denny Hamlin?
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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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So Denny Hamlin took another hard hit Sunday at Kentucky Speedway. Medical professionals have cleared him of any concussion and he is cleared to race this weekend at Daytona. If I am team owner Joe Gibbs, I am not sure I change my strategy at all for the remainder of the year where Denny is concerned.

Denny came back really strong after being out of the car following his back injury with a second-place and a fourth-place finish. Morale and hopes of being the first driver to actually miss races and still make the Chase were flying high. However, the very next week he blew a right front tire at Dover and it has absolutely been downhill from there for this team and its season.

I know if I was Coach Gibbs I would still be optimistic that there was some way, somehow they could still make this Chase. The reality is with nine races left until the Chase, Denny could win half of those races and still not make the Chase because he simply can’t get into the Top 20 in points.

If I am the folks at Joe Gibbs Racing my No. 1 goal the remainder of the season is to make sure Denny is and stays healthy. As I mentioned earlier, Sunday was another hard hit for Denny. That now makes it honestly two hard hits in the last five races.

Goal No. 2 is to forget about points and the 2013 Championship. All that the No. 11 car needs to focus on is winning racing and collecting data for their notebook to be ready for 2014. This possibly would be the first year that Denny has never made the Chase and never won a race.

To me, keeping one of those streaks alive should be important to that organization. Plus from a team pride standpoint, the other two JGR teams have won races this year and so you don’t want to end the season being the only team in your organization with a goose-egg in the win column.

Tagged: Denny Hamlin

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