Hamlin needs to maintain Chase focus

The racing at Dover International Speedway this past weekend was really interesting. I liken it to a Jekylll and Hyde kind of deal.

The major statement, of course, was made by Jimmie Johnson. He, crew chief Chad Knaus and the entire No. 48 team served notice that they aren’t dead and they are a force to be reckoned with in this Chase for the Sprint Cup.

They came to Dover, where they are expected to run well, and they did exactly that. They knew they needed to qualify well and made every effort to win the pole, which they did. That was priority number one with them.

They didn’t panic when they didn’t get the practice results they were looking for. They all put their heads together and came up with a great race package that put them in Victory Lane at the end of the day.

Now the other part of the Jekyll and Hyde scenario looks to be the feud between Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing. When you get two organizations that become too busy worrying about each other, it allows the outsiders to take advantage of that. I think that is a little bit of what happened this past weekend.

It’s easy for me to sit here on the outside looking in and say Denny Hamlin should have kept his mouth shut. Up until Dover, Denny has done a really good job of running his season and playing his game. A lot of people said early in the season that he couldn’t do it and he has proven them wrong.

I think he has his hands full trying to win the championship, but now he has a two-front war going with what he said about Richard Childress Racing.

I think he can beat Clint Bowyer on the race track hands down. Where I believe he made his mistake was trying to tear down the entire RCR group when he questioned the legality of their cars this season. Unfortunately, he chose to go that way and, in my book, it doesn’t serve a purpose to go fight that battle.

There are three RCR cars out there.

Clint, for all intent and purpose, is out of the Chase so he has nothing to lose. Clint can’t fall any farther than 12th. If he doesn’t even start the rest of the races, the worse Clint can ever be is 12th. So with nothing to lose, Clint has the potential to damage Denny’s chances and drag Denny right down there to the bottom of the Chase with him.

Don’t get me wrong; I admire Denny for standing his ground. He could have easily simply supported NASCAR and said they made the right call on Clint’s penalty. Then he could have stopped right there.

However, he then took it a step further and stirred up the entire RCR camp. All of us are good at letting our emotions cloud our judgment.

Kevin Harvick took exception to Denny’s comments about Richard Childress Racing and he expressed his feeling as only Kevin can.

There are a lot of fans out there applauding Kevin for standing up for his owner, his teammate and the entire RCR organization. So you have fans applauding Denny for what he did and you have fans applauding Kevin for what he did.

But again, my point is that Denny can’t afford a two-front war.

This Chase is tough enough. I speak from experience in these championship battles because that’s the way DW was in trying to mess with Bobby Allison and Bill Elliott. When you are chasing, you can be a little more adversarial.

When we were in it, the championship was normally between just a couple cars. It’s not that way anymore. Back then we were having our war of words and battles on the track with one group. You also have to remember that back then, the concept of teammates was nowhere near the level it is today.

I liken it to one of my favorite sayings: you have to be careful when you poke the bear. The point is it could come back to haunt you.

There’s nothing wrong with standing up for what you believe in. Sometimes though, you have to be careful when you are piling on. When a guy is down, you have to give a lot of thought to how hard you want to kick him. Sooner or later, if you stay in NASCAR long enough, what goes around comes around.

So I come back to what has Denny really accomplished by digging up old dirt and slinging mud?

What if Clint’s car is off at Kansas Speedway or he is a couple laps down at Talladega Superspeedway and he sees you coming? What’s going to prevent him from squeezing you up in the wall in an attempt to ruin your Chase chances? He doesn’t have to take you out to simply make your life a lot harder.

The bottom line is, Clint has eight more races to do that to Denny Hamlin.