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Hamlin Defends Lack of JGR Support At ‘Dega

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 28 2016
Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin says he had no problem with non-team play at Talladega. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin says he has no problem with non-team play at Talladega. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Denny Hamlin said Friday his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates who remained at the back of the field during last weekend’s Talladega race shouldn’t be criticized; that they were simply being smart.

bugnotes“They would be the dumbest group in history if they had run in the middle of the pack and got wrecked at some point when they didn’t have to be,” Hamlin said at Martinsville Speedway. “It’s about winning championships. It’s not about inning Talladega by any means.”

Talladega was the final race in the Chase’s second segment with the top eight in the standings advancing to the third round. Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards chose to play it safe and advance on points rather than take a chance of being eliminated by a crash while racing for the victory. The JGR trio finished 28th-30th in the 40-car field. All three were on the lead lap. Hamlin had to race his way into the third segment.

“I knew that we weren’t going to have any teammates all day because we all knew what they were going to do before the race started,” Hamlin said. “Just everyone else saw it when it actually happened.

“All those guys earned the right to do that by having a good first two races and I think next year with the races being switched around, you’ll see less of that because people won’t know where they stand.”

In 2017, Talladega and Kansas switch places on the schedule. That makes Talladega the second race in the Chase’s second segment and Kansas the third.

“I think it kind of fixes itself next year,” Hamlin continued. “There’s more chances of a big wreck there than any other race track, so you have to play the odds there. There’s no way that those guys should have been up there helping me, putting themselves in danger of not making the Chase. Instead of Gibbs having three cars in the Chase, they could have had two or maybe one if they had been helping me and we got in a wreck. Luckily, it all worked out where we have all four and they played the strategy they had to play to get in and I did the strategy I had to do to get in. Nobody from any other team would have done anything different, that’s for sure and if they tell you different, that’s a lie.”


Joey Logano snared the outside front row starting position for Sunday’s Goody’s fast Relief 500 with a 98.165-mph lap, making him the highest qualifying Chase contender. Next was six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in third. The other three Chase contenders qualifying in the top 10 were Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. However, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch failed to crack the top 15.

“We talk about pressure a lot in the Chase and a lot of teams crack under it,” Logano said. “I believe the 22 team thrives under it. I think we’re excited about that and I think it’s something that makes us strong. We know we can come out here and win all three of these races (in this round). You have to have an attitude like that or you shouldn’t even strap into the seat.”


Jeff Gordon is substituting again this weekend for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he says being fresh out of the car last year, but stepping back into the driver’s seat this season have both been beneficial to him as an analyst for Fox Sports.

“It was good to see the difference of how the cars drive this year versus how the cars drove last year,” said Gordon, who qualified 10th for Sunday’s Martinsville race. “I give a lot of credit to these teams for what they have done with less downforce, a combination of Goodyear and the engineers and crew chiefs that build these race cars. I was pretty shocked that these cars really haven’t lost anything.”

Gordon said he liked this year’s package, which has less downforce.

“I think there are some tracks that it is really well balanced out,” Gordon continued. “I’d like to see a little more fall off of the tires at some of the other tracks. I think it just continues to go as a step in the right direction by taking more and more downforce and grip and cleaning up the air around the cars to connect to the cars around them. At Dover, I thought I was losing too much front downforce when I got too close to the cars. So there are still some things that need to be worked on there.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 28 2016
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