A lot of fans have been making comments about Denny Hamlin following his interview Sunday in which he was trying to explain why his team pitted when everybody and their brother knew that rain was about to wash everything out.
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The rain did come, and Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing team settled for 11th in the shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
I made a comment off camera in the TV booth that he sure didn’t look like a man very content with the decision.
Look, the bottom line is this is a team sport. Denny is not going to throw his team under the bus. What would you gain by doing that? Obviously staying out was not going to win the race. Tony Stewart was the race leader at the time and he was going to win if the rains came and stayed, shortening the race, as ended up happening.
As we have documented plenty since last year, the way our sport is structured now it is no longer about having a good points day. Our sport is all about winning.
That said, however, coming on the heels of the two 20th-place finishes that Denny had the previous two weeks, finishing second or third Sunday would have been better than finishing 11th, as he did.
Now on the upside of things, we are headed to Martinsville Speedway. That place and Richmond International Raceway have been the two tracks of late that Denny has owned. All these teams are professional and the No. 11 is no different.
Once the race at Fontana was over and this week began, the focus turned to Martinsville and not the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” of Fontana.
There are a lot of teams running really well now that are definitely excited to get to Martinsville this weekend. I mentioned Denny, plus Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon all run well there. Of that group, Jeff is the one that needs a great finish this weekend. It’s not that Jeff isn’t running well, his Hendrick Motorsports team just isn’t getting the finishes to show for it.
Jeff’s engine blew in the Daytona 500. He cut a tire down late in the race at Bristol, which easily cost him a top-five finish. Then a mistake on pit road put his team behind Sunday when the rains came. Unfortunately, that 26th-place finish Sunday dropped Jeff two more spots in the points and he is mired back in 25th.
The other guy to watch Sunday is the same one who won the spring race at Martinsville last year – Kevin Harvick. He is running well but still searching for that first win of the season.
Kevin is currently second in the points, breathing down leader Greg Biffle’s neck. Historically, Martinsville is not a good track for the Roush Fenway Racing Fords, so it will be interesting to see if Kevin and his Richard Childress Racing team can make up ground on Greg and his Roush group this weekend.