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Hamlin Says NASCAR Bailed Harvick Out At ‘Dega

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 30 2015
Denny Hamlin said this week that Kevin Harvick will have a target on his car at Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Denny Hamlin said this week that Kevin Harvick will have a target on his car at Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

IRVING, Texas – Sprint Cup star Denny Hamlin says NASCAR opted to play-it-safe Tuesday when it absolved Kevin Harvick of “bricking the field” and intentionally causing a race-altering wreck during Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

chase 15 logoHamlin was among four drivers failing to advance into the Eliminator 8 Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup when he was swept-up in a crash during a green-white-checkered flag finish at the 2.66-mile trioval in Alabama.  Hamlin maintains there was more than enough evidence available to prove that Harvick, the reigning series champion, intentionally drove his disabled car into Trevor Bayne’s as the field was coming up to speed.

Hamlin finished 37th after his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry made contact with the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS of three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, co-owner of Harvick’s No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevy.  Hamlin missed the last Eliminator Round spot by eight points.

Sunday’s controversial finish prompted NASCAR to review “an extensive amount of material” from Talladega, including video, team radio transmissions and downloadable data. “Based on that review, the race results are considered official as we prepare for the upcoming 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Eliminator Round starting Sunday at Martinsville Speedway,” the sanctioning body said in a statement from its Daytona Beach, Fla., headquarters.

“I think it’s the safe play for them,” Hamlin said Thursday during a promotional stop in North Texas on behalf of the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth from Nov. 5-8.  “It’s very easy to say, ‘We can’t be inside someone’s head and know exactly what they’re thinking.’ But if you have a crew chief telling him exactly what needs to happen…I think most spotters up there knew what was going on and they warned their drivers, ‘He’s going to cause a big one here, watch out.’ And it happens.

“I mean, it’s just disappointing. Kevin Harvick is a pretty good driver. He’d just run 180 laps at 200 mph three-wide, but he didn’t see a car running 30 mph right beside him. Common sense now and then has to take over.”

Interestingly, NASCAR took five cars to its Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., for post-race inspection, including the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion of winner Joey Logano. But Harvick’s No. 4, which the driver reported was down on horsepower, was not among them. His car sputtering on the laps leading to the restart, Harvick informed crew chief Rodney Childers over the radio he would not be able to make it up to race-speed. Just 11 points ahead of the playoff cutdown line, a clean GWC restart and two laps around the high-banked oval likely would have booted Harvick from the Chase.

Prior to the race, NASCAR announced only one GWC would be in-play instead of the usual three. The race-ending wreck technically occurred under a second GWC restart that added to Hamlin’s frustration.

“That ‘one’ (restart) never happened. It never happened,” Hamlin said, quite sarcastically. “There was not two cars spun to the inside. There was not a green flag dropped. It never happened. If you think the race was over after the first one that didn’t happen…I thought it was for sure and at the time we were in, you know? But we had another one and that’s when we were out.

“It sucks because we put ourselves in a position to let something like that control our destiny instead of us being up there racing for the win like we were early in the day. It’s frustrating that we didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle put together but we still had a shot there at the end until that happened. Hopefully coming out of this we’re going to have more clarity on what exactly the rules are because I think there’s still probably some questions.”

For instance, the spotter chatter leading to the GWC loomed as prima facie evidence. “For sure it was for me,” said Hamlin, a two-time winner this season. “The first restart he (Harvick) went backwards, I mean, he lost eight spots. So I don’t know how he even got to go back to his position. The precedent’s been set for years and years if you do not maintain…if you don’t keep up with the car in front of you and people pass you, you lose those positions no matter whether it’s green or caution.

“When he got put back up-front _ my thing is if he would have stayed in that position, I think he was 20th or something like that _ bricking the field would have done nothing for him. His bed was already made at that point. But when they put him back up-front, that’s when he was like…’Can’t let anyone pass me because I’m going to go backwards.’ Like I said, I can’t get in their head. All we know is what we heard. Their crew chief pretty much gave a play-by-play of what needed to happen, and it happened.

“I really don’t need to ask him anything why he did what he did. I really don’t need to get into his head. We all know where his head was at. He was trying to do whatever he could to move on. Unfortunately, we were the innocent bystander that was caught up in it.”

Hamlin said while he is a fan of the current Chase format, he hopes tweaks will be made. “Were the fans really satisfied with the ending to Talladega? I’d say probably not,” Hamlin said. “I think there will be some more clarity going forward. I don’t think anyone in the garage had ever heard of that we didn’t make it to the line so the green flag doesn’t count as a re-start. I think that whole thing was very cloudy. Hopefully, we have some clarity going forward. Trust me. We think at times we know all the rules, but we don’t _obviously. We were all very confused this weekend.”

Hamlin, who finished a career-best second in the Chase last year, said JGR remains in title contention via the presences of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. In addition to Logano and Harvick, the Eliminator field includes sentimental favorite Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.

As for Harvick, Hamlin said “Happy” has run out of wiggle room heading into Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 on Martinsville’s half-mile, paperclip-shaped layout. “You just don’t cut him any breaks,” Hamlin said. “We all have scorecards. Kevin wrecked me pretty good last year at Bristol for the lead. Pretty blatantly. I never did anything. I’ve been very nice to people that I feel have done me wrong. But you keep a scorecard in your head. You don’t give that person that inch when they need it. Sometimes, you need that inch, and you’re not going to get it. Not in the near future anyway.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 30 2015
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Ilean says:

    Nascar has two cheaters they have protected, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. This leaves a big black mark on Nascar’s judgement. I liked watching the races but after Nascar has protected CHEATERS, I have no interest in watching it again.

  • Byron says:

    I agree with Denny Hamlin that the last race ending was totally confusing to the spectators and some of the drivers. There was laps to be raced but NASCAR called the race early. I still don’t like the race format where multiple race winners get eliminated from the chase just because they didn’t win the races or finish close to the lead on specific races. Some one that has never won a race should not be allowed in the chase.