Hamlin Forced Into New Role At Gibbs Racing
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Denny Hamlin, who earned the pole for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, says the last nine races have been the worst of his career and now he must be a guinea pig for his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates.
Since Michigan in June Hamlin has finished no better than 18th. That came at Indianapolis earlier this month. However, the rest of the last two months have been pretty dismal, starting with his 30th-place finish at the June Michigan event. He followed that with 23rd at Sonoma, 35th at Kentucky, 36th at Daytona, 21st at New Hampshire, 43rd at Pocono, 19th at Watkins Glen and 20th last weekend at Michigan.
“A lot of it is our doing,” Hamlin said. “We got off track for a couple races because we were blowing right-front tires consecutive weeks and then we started changing our setups up and didn’t find anything that was very good with that. That burnt another three or four weeks and then we’ve had horsepower cutback and things like that, but we’re heading in the right direction.
“We’ve got something we can build on – it’s a pole at a short track, which is no big deal to a lot of teams, but at any moment we can go from that 25th-place car on a weekly basis to winning a pole and winning a race. There’s not a whole lot of teams that can say they can win at any moment, but I feel like we can.
“Our job for the rest of the year is to do what we can for our teammates, for our manufacturers to try to be a guinea pig if we need to; whatever it takes to get a championship for Toyota or Joe Gibbs Racing. We’re going to try to sacrifice. We pay the price for that sometimes with results. I’ve had teammates who have not been part of the Chase before and I’ve asked them to try different things, so we’ve got to be that guy now.”
Mark Martin is handling the needs of the No. 14 car’s sponsors for the remainder of the season,
Stewart-Haas Racing Greg Zipadelli says.
A photo shoot was done with Martin prior to the Bristol race.
“Obviously, the sponsors wanted some things done, so I mean we are obviously doing everything we can do to be good partners with them and make sure that they can use Mark in whatever they need to from here to the end of the year,” Zipadelli said.
Jimmie Johnson says he doesn’t yet have a definitive answer as to what caused his Chevrolet’s engine failure at Michigan, but he suspects a part failure.
“Hopefully, we can find out what batch it came from and which part it was,” Johnson said. “You know, when things fail at a rapid rate like they do, it’s hard to find the source of the issue. Hopefully, we can narrow that down and get new parts and pieces in place so it doesn’t happen to our car or anybody else’s.”
Johnson said when his team tested at Richmond earlier this week people from the Hendrick Motorsports engine facility were still asking questions about the failure.
“They didn’t have any clear direction then,” Johnson continued. “I’m not sure they’ve had a lot of time to work on everything with all four cars going to Richmond on Tuesday and Wednesday, but we definitely had one. Our engine failed and the others didn’t.”
When Danica Patrick was asked about possibly having Kurt Busch as a teammate in 2014, she welcomed the idea, saying she had known him for several years.
“It goes all the way back to when he drove an Indy Car at Sebring, I believe,” Patrick said. “He drove a Rahal/Letterman car and I was there watching that day. I’ve always really liked him and got along really well with him. We’ve never had any problems on the track at all, so we have a good working relationship for sure.”
She also said she had known Mark Martin for a long time and considered him a “really nice guy” who’s “really interested in helping.
“Shoot, he can fit in my car so maybe someday he will drive my car, too,” she said. “I always like getting other drivers feedback.”
Patrick said the possibility of SHR being a four-car team in 2014 was exciting.
“I always like having more people to look at as far as their styles,” Patrick continued. “There are more engineers. There are more crew chiefs and more people around to develop things. For me, I think it’s a great thing.”
When Jimmie Johnson was asked Friday about the toughest injury he’d ever experienced in his career the California native pointed to his eighth birthday when he was racing dirt bikes.
With a few races left in the season, Johnson fell in the first turn and bent the bike’s handlebars. He rode it a couple more laps, but forgot the handlebars were bent. Johnson came over a double-jump section of the track, put his hands straight as he normally would, but due to the bent handlebars the wheel was cocked.
“I tumbled and got tangled up with the bike,” Johnson recalled. “I broke my tib and fib on my left leg and pulled the knee apart. I was staring at the bottom of my motorcycle boot. I went to the hospital and had reconstructive knee surgery and they got everything put back together and had me in a cast.
“We figured out that if I started the race and rode one lap the next couple of events that I would tie with this other kid in points and I would have more race wins and would win the championship. So, my dad with his fabrication skills, designed a little thing off the side of the bike. He borrowed some adult-sized leathers and boots and all that, and got my foot propped up. (I) rode one lap and tied the kid in points and won the tie-breaker due to the wins, and went and got my first championship trophy on stage on crutches. I was in a cast for quite a while. That was a six- or eight-month process to get through.”
Johnson said his father saw his tumble and began running to him. Somebody was attempting to help Johnson off the track.
“When he [father] saw my leg and somebody trying to move me, that person still today probably regrets touching me because my dad stuffed him,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “He came running up and planted the person that was trying to help.”
– Deb Williams can be reached at email@example.comOne Comment