NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 65: Denny Hamlin

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Denny Hamlin didn’t have a race scheduled, but he did have a check.

So when he signed a development contract with Joe Gibbs Racing in February 2004, the driver who has a reputation for being a free spender didn’t wait.

“I bought a plasma TV and rims for my Ford Ranger,” Hamlin said with a laugh on this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast. “I blew it within a week.”

And he made sure everyone at his family’s trailer hitch company knew about it.

“I got a Joe Gibbs Racing sweatshirt and wore that thing nearly every day to work,” he said. “Because it was like, ‘I’m with the Joe Gibbs Racing team as a development driver.’ Which meant nothing; just that i couldn’t sign with someone else.”

Eventually, Hamlin was slated for a few truck races and then finished eighth in his Xfinity debut at Darlington Raceway in November 2004. JGR named him its full-time driver for 2005, and he was promoted to NASCAR’s premier series the following year.

“It’s a chain of events that I think about all the time that if that didn’t happen or this didn’t happen, I never would have been here,” the defending Daytona 500 winner said. “It makes me wonder how many others are in my shoes from 13 years ago today that didn’t have that one thing that went right so they’ll never be seen. We’ll never know who they are.

“It’s incredible to see this whole process. It was a very tough road. I never remember anyone who went from Late Models on short tracks to racing Cup in one year.”

Hamlin’s break came at a JGR test for its diversity program at Hickory Motor Speedway. The team hired Hamlin to shake down the cars and help the drivers, but J.D. Gibbs was so impressed, he called his father and advised that JGR should get Hamlin under contract.

“I still don’t think today that I get that break unless J.D. Gibbs is at that test,” he said. “I just don’t think it ever happens. I was a 1 in 10 million.”

During the podcast, Hamlin also addressed:

–Reminiscing about his 2016 Daytona 500 victory;

–The reception in his hometown of Chesterfield;

–His role as the leader of the Drivers Council;

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.