Still-Hot Hamlin says Keselowski Refuses To Man-Up
By Mark Armijo | Senior Correspondent
By the time Denny Hamlin got to Phoenix on Wednesday he still hadn’t forgiven Brad Keselowski for their on-track skirmish nearly two weeks ago in a NASCAR Nationwide race at Dover, Del.
Hadn’t put it on the back-burner, hadn’t swept it under the rug, hadn’t even bothered to shrug his shoulders and label it, “just racin’.”
Hamlin instead delivered to Mr. Keselowski another mouthful of unflattering remarks.
Asked by a reporter if he and Keselowski have spoken since the incident, Hamlin shook his head from side-to-side.
“No, haven’t talked to him at all,” said Hamlin, who en route to California Speedway for race No. 4 of 10 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup title, made a lengthy pit stop in Arizona on behalf of a Phoenix International Raceway promotion. “I don’t really think he’s man enough to call me face to face. Just don’t think it’s his style.”
What Hamlin believes is Keselowski’s style is to sometimes – oftentimes? — drive beyond his capability.
Hamlin points to Dover as Exhibit No. 1, when the right front of Keselowski’s Chevrolet made contact with the left rear on Hamlin’s Toyota as both machines sped into a corner. The impact sent Hamlin into a wall and into a sour mood, a mood that was spiked even more after listening to Keselowski’s explanation during a television interview.
“He has no idea how to race,” Hamlin said at Dover.
Nearly two weeks later Hamlin virtually repeated the mantra.
“How he uses his talent to me is questionable,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t realize it was in question with every single competitor on the Cup side that has raced with him and talked to me about it. “They said, ‘You know, we don’t know what he was doing. It was blatant.’
“Then, listening to him talk (on TV) and making it sound like he was the victim and I was the one taking advantage of him when I was the one in front of him. Well, it was kind of a ridiculous statement. It showed that he just didn’t have much level of maturity at that point.”
To be fair, Dale Earnhardt Jr. thought enough of Keselowski to hire him two years ago for a Nationwide ride, and famed car owner Roger Penske recently signed the 25-year-old driver to a fulltime Cup ride beginning next season.
Such signings should speak volumes about Keselowski’s talents.
Just don’t ask Hamlin for an endorsement.
As for Hamlin’s chances in the Chase, which continues Sunday in Fontana, Calif., he still feels very much a part of the title hunt.
Hamlin is sixth of 12 drivers in the Chase, trailing leader Mark Martin by 99 points with seven remaining stops, including a Nov. 15 appearance at PIR.
“My key thing is with about three races to go, you need to be within 75 points,” Hamlin said. “If we’re at the point, then we’ll be OK. After Talladega (race No. 7), you’ll know. That’s kind of our last wild card race.
“You’ll start to see people separate themselves over those last three races.”
If Hamlin still is in the 75-point mix entering Chase’s last three stops at Texas, PIR (four top-five finishes in his last five starts) and Homestead-Miami, then he’ll issue a warning not to count him out.
“It’s been an eight out of 10 year for us I guess you could say so far,” said Hamlin, who won two of the six races preceding the Chase and also has two top-five finishes in the three Chase races to date. “I’ve been in contention to win some races and didn’t get it done, and then we’ve won a couple in the last couple of months. I’ve kind of been on a roll in that sense.
“I’m happy about the way our team is performing right now. I feel like we’re a top three team. The 48 (Johnson) and 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) are running really well right now. The 5 (Martin), too.
“But I feel like we’re there. We’re running just as competitive as those guys every single week. I just can’t have (Cup) weekends like we had two weeks ago (22nd at Dover).”
– Mark Armijo is the long-time auto-racing beat writer for the Arizona Republic and a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com27 Comments