Hamlin hits hard times after five-win start to Cup season
1. Have you seen Denny's mojo?
It was back in 2005 that American Express rolled out an advertising campaign for the U.S. Open asking if
With just six races before the Chase, it's high time we send out a search party for
Our hunt begins somewhere between Brooklyn, Mich., and Sonoma, Calif., which is where Hamlin seemingly lost his magic as he went from being the spring's hottest driver to fading in the blazing summer sun.
Just look at the numbers. Here are Hamlin's stats from Martinsville to Michigan:
So what has happened to the driver everyone crowned as the most logical choice to dethrone four-time champion
There's the possibility that with five wins, which ties J.J. for the most this season, he and crew chief
But the more logical reason for Hamlin's decline is that the stranglehold Joe Gibbs Racing held over the series with the return of the spoiler (JGR won seven of 10 races) has disintegrated.
Along with Hamlin's recent struggles, teammate
The rest of the series has caught up with JGR, but there's good news and even better news for Hamlin. The good news? The six tracks leading up to the playoff include three tracks in which he's taken the No. 11 to Victory Lane. There's also Watkins Glen, where he has the third-highest average finish among all active drivers (7.5). The even better news? Next up is Pocono, a track Hamlin has owned, winning four times in nine starts.
A season sweep of the tri-oval would go a long way toward putting him back on track. But with 50 bonus points already in his back pocket heading into the Chase, it's consistency that needs to be Hamlin's biggest objective over the next six weeks. That will put the mojo squarely back in his pit box.
2. NASCAR has taken heat for not releasing the names of the two drivers who were fined for making disparaging comments about the series --
Transparency may be the standard, but the only problem with pushing for it from NASCAR is that we're forgetting that that NASCAR isn't the NFL or NBA.
Unlike NASCAR, the other leagues don't rely on sponsors as a source of identity for its athletes. If NASCAR were to publicly oust Hamlin and Newman, if they are the drivers in question, what would it mean to image-conscious sponsors and the drivers' ability to lure future sponsorship deals?
The last thing a sponsor that's socking millions into NASCAR wants to hear is that the driver they're paying to be the face of their product is blasting the sport they're investing in. That's why NASCAR is keeping things quiet, because it understands it is pushing a product that needs to be accessible for companies. It can't risk alienating partners and giving them any reason to leave when it's already struggling to keep sponsors.
It may seem a strange stance to allow drivers to have free reign on the track, tell them you want them to feel free to express their opinions and then fine them when those opinions happen to belittle the sport, but at the end of the day NASCAR wants its product (i.e. drivers) to be safe investments, not loose cannons who can scare away multi-million dollar clients.
4 -- Drivers who have led more than 86 laps in a running of the Brickyard 400 but failed to win.
Hamlin is the easy pick, but Roush Fenway Racing seems poised to end its frustrations.