Denny Hamlin

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Denny Hamlin showing ‘remarkable consistency’

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Things have been going relatively well for Denny Hamlin on the track in 2018.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver enters this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway sixth in points. Through five races, he’s finished outside the top six once (17th, Las Vegas).

NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan discussed his season so far in addition to Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

Letarte said Hamlin has displayed “remarkable consistency.”

“Denny Hamlin is in my mind a super star driver that I know I am guilty of leaving him out of super star conversations,” Letarte said.

Ryan pointed to mistakes on pit road that have prevented Hamlin from enjoying more success this season and in his career overall. His result at Las Vegas was the result of a speeding penalty.

“Five races this season, four pit mistakes,” Ryan said. “He overshot his box at Daytona, he did that at Fontana, he sped in the pits at Phoenix. While I think they’ve had speed, I think that team is still stumbling in the same ways it has in the past. Unless they correct that, I don’t know if they’re championship level yet.”

Hamlin heads to Martinsville where he has won a career-best five races.

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NASCAR America: Comparing today’s drivers to drivers of yesteryear


With Kevin Harvick‘s recent run of three consecutive wins, NASCAR America analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte used the opportunity debate which NASCAR legends they compare Harvick and other current drivers to.

Burton compared Harvick to three-time Cup champion Cale Yarborough.

“I think they remind me a lot of each other because they’re both very aggressive, they both got after it, good at every kind of race track,” Burton said.

Earnhardt sees some of 1983 Cup champion Bobby Allison in Harvick.

“Won a championship, won a lot of races, but wasn’t afraid to put his finger in another driver’s chest,” Earnhardt said.

When it comes to Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon, Earnhardt compared him and Denny Hamlin to the late Tim Richmond.

“Mainly in style,” Earnhardt said. “They’re the kind of guys that are a little flashy, a lot of flair outside the car. … Tim was that way. He wasn’t scared to flaunt it a little bit and he enjoyed life outside the race car as much as he did inside the race car.”

Watch the above video for more old school driver comparisons.


NASCAR examining inspection procedure, penalties

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NASCAR is examining what penalties to issue when teams don’t pass inspection before qualifying, will have a different inspection procedure this weekend at Martinsville and remains committed to inspecting cars at the R&D Center, a series official said Monday.

Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition, made the comments on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Thirteen cars did not make a qualifying attempt Friday at Auto Club Speedway because they failed to pass inspection in time. Among the drivers who started at the rear in Sunday’s race because of that were Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, William Byron, Kasey Kahne, Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman.

They would have had an advantage with starting on sticker tires while those who qualified had run laps on their tires. Auto Club Speedway’s surface wears tires. Fresher tires produce faster speeds.

NASCAR decided to allow teams that qualified to purchase a sticker set to start the race on, so every team would be on equal footing. For the Xfinity race, NASCAR stated that any team that didn’t pass inspection before qualifying would be forced to pass through pit road at the start of the race. Every car passed inspection.

“Moving forward, I’m not sure either thing will be where we land, but we certainly will be working on something to keep from having to react like that at the race track,’’ Miller said.

At Martinsville this weekend, NASCAR will not have inspection before qualifying. Instead, cars will be inspected after Saturday’s qualifying. That inspection also will serve as inspection before the race since cars will be impounded after qualifying.

If any team fails inspection, their qualifying time will be disallowed and they will start at the rear of the field for Sunday’s race at Martinsville. 

“We’re actually kind of looking forward to that as a way forward actually,’’ Miller said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It would be really good if we could get it down to one major inspection for the weekend moving forward.’’

Miller also addressed the issue of if NASCAR would consider no longer inspecting cars at the R&D Center a few days after the event but complete the inspection process at the track.

Twice this month, NASCAR has announced penalties that were discovered at the R&D Center three days after that particular race.

“We’re looking at a lot of different things that potentially could be something different,’’ Miller said. “We want to make sure that we’re doing a thorough job of inspecting the race cars and right now the R&D Center is our best avenue for doing that.’’

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What drivers said after Auto Club 400

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Martin Truex Jr. — WINNER:Honestly, it just feels good to win. I don’t really care. I don’t really worry about who’s winning, who else is fast. Obviously (Kevin Harvick) has been quick. They’v got a great team. Kevin is an awesome driver. They had it going on the last couple weeks. As we seen today, we can put together a run like that as well. I think most of all it feels good we’re able to find that speed we’ve been looking for the last couple weeks. Like I said, we’ve been close, but not quite close enough.  We knew we were off a bit, so it wasn’t a surprise that we weren’t winning. Today I felt really good about what we had. It was really fast. It’s just kind of reassurance that what we’re doing is working. We have a lot of things we have to look forward to this year. That’s because of the hard work of the guys, just everybody in our program, Toyota, TRD, all the guys in Denver, JGR chassis, all we do together with them. It’s been an unbelievable couple of seasons. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling.

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “We were racing really hard, and I was better than (Kevin Harvick) in three and four, and he was better than me in one and two. I would side draft him down the frontstretch, and he would side draft me down the backstretch, and I don’t know if he was just coming down to side draft me or what, but we made contact, and it spun his car to the right. So, you never want to make contact with anybody, but all in all, it was a good day for our DC Solar Chevrolet team. We had a lot of weird issues like vibrations and stuff that made us have to restart in the back, and we would have to go back forward. It always seemed like we would get to third or fourth and kind of stall out there. But it was still a very good day. (Martin Truex Jr.) was really good, and I think (Kevin Harvick) was probably the best car again although he didn’t get to race a whole lot.  We are right there, and we just have to continue to work hard.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 3rd: “Just thought we were closer than that but obviously not. We were right on top of the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) yesterday. The first run I thought we were really good and showed some strength, but from there on out showed no strength.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 4th: “We had exceptional speed today with the Wurth Ford Fusion on the short runs, but not very much for them there on the long runs, that’s for sure. I was hoping to get a late-race caution, and I could make it exciting for the fans that are here, but it didn’t pan out that way. I still think the 4 car (Kevin Harvick) is probably the best car in the field right now. Things didn’t come together for him today. There will probably be a race in the future where he’s not the fastest, and it does come together. That’s how things work.

Joey Logano — Finished 5th: “The 78 had a great car.  I was in front of him for about five laps and I was like, ‘Hey,’ but it was short-lived. Overall, it was a good weekend. We got a top-five here, and a win yesterday is great. I would have liked to sweep the races here at Auto Club, and we’re just trying to get this Auto Club Fusion to Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway. I’ve been so close for quite some time now, and it’s been a great race track for us and a lot of fun to race here, I just need more speed to be able to keep up there. We made one change that the car didn’t like right before the last stage, and we lost some track position there, and by the time we were able to start catching back up it was too late. We probably could have finished fourth, maybe third at the end if we didn’t have that bad run, but overall that’s where we’re at.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 6th: “We just had a mistake on our pit stop. I flew through my box again. Once I got that remedied, it looked like were somewhere around a fourth or fifth-place car. Even a third place at times. In the long-run we were exceptional but we were just too slow on the short run to keep up. Those guys would pull 7 seconds on us, and we’d maintain after that and gain a little.”

Erik Jones — Finished 7th: “It was a really consistent day. We fought the handling here on the SiriusXM Camry. We couldn’t quite get it to turn the center and stay with the drive-off all day. Struggled a little bit with that in practice. A good day overall. We had about a seventh-place car, and we finished there. So we did a good job of running where we supposed to and not making any mistakes all day. We have to keep doing that. We need to be a little bit faster, and I think we’ll get there. It’s going to take a little bit of time. We’re working hard but a good finish.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 9th: “Each week, we have been getting a little bit better. We are definitely not happy with where we are right now, but we are seeing the improvements. We have been seeing it internally. We are making the cars drive better and better, and we are getting more competitive.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 10th: “It was a pretty solid day. We struggled, truthfully. I thought we were way closer in practice, and it just didn’t work out. We took off. We were plowing. We freed up way too much. Our balance was decent at the end, we just weren’t far enough up front to really do anything. I think we were a top-five car at the end. We just waited too late to get there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: “We got really lucky to finish this race today. That tire was coming apart, and I didn’t think we had any chance of making it to the checkered flag, but it did. We wanted more than 11th, and at times today we were really good. We got some stage points, but we have some work to do. We’ll be ready for Martinsville.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 21st: “We made a major overhaul to our Chevrolet Accessories Camaro ZL1 last night. Our car fired off fast but wasn’t as fast as we needed it to be on the long run like our teammate’s car. Unfortunately, from the beginning, our handling was way off. Our car was so tight in the corners and loose off. We’re scratching our heads right now figuring out what went wrong. It wasn’t for a lack of trying on our part. We threw everything at it, had one run in the top 10 but could never get the handling in our favor to stay up with the lead pack.”  

Ty Dillon — Finished 27th: This was a real test of our team and how much fight we have in us because Auto Club Speedway was not kind to our Twisted Tea Camaro ZL1 today. It’s such a rough and old surface that it wears out your tires and can make car control incredibly difficult. Like a lot of other cars this weekend, I tagged the wall early in Stage 1 and got some pretty heavy right-side damage. We adjusted around that as best we could, but then we had to deal with a broken track bar at the end of Stage 2. It was certainly not the day we wanted to have, but I’m proud of my guys for battling back and not giving up. It’s easy to get down, but our team kept going. Even though it’s disappointing, we will not let this get to us. We will turn our focus to preparing for Martinsville and be ready for them next weekend.”

KEVIN HARVICK — Finished 35th: “I went down to side draft, and he was coming up, and we touched, and it just knocked the thing to the right and spun out. I don’t know that it’s his fault. I think that’s my fault for coming down the race track right there and trying to side draft and then as we touch it just came back up the race track. I was just trying to get a little too much right there. I knew the stage was coming in. I’ve just got to thank all of my guys. They did a great job on our Busch Beer Ford, and it was just my fault back there.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 37th: “It’s not something where you would normally keep it on the outside of him (Ryan Newman). He was a little faster than us, but (the leader Martin Truex Jr.) was coming. I saw (Paul Menard) was having issues, so you have to stay in that lucky dog spot or the free pass, so I stayed on the outside of (Newman), and he just kept coming up and squeezed us into the fence. I think he thought he would clear us, and I was still just there. It’s unfortunate. It wasn’t really that much contact and I didn’t smell that bad of smoke through turn one and two, but then coming down the back I thought we better just hit pit road because we had a lot more to lose than to gain by staying on the race track. I turned to come down pit road and as soon as I turned off the wall the right-front blew at 200-whatever we’re doing here and the problem with here is you see the wall coming forever, so that’s not a fun ride when you’re on the brakes, and it isn’t slowing down, and it’s not turning. You know you’re going to hit hard, and I feel like I should be hurting right now as hard as that was, so that’s a testament to what NASCAR has done with safety because I feel like I should be looking at you funny right now, and I feel great. That was a hard hit.”

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California cruising: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Auto Club Speedway


Martin Truex Jr.’s dominating style returned Sunday, as he started from the pole, captured both stages and won the Auto Club 400 by 11.685 seconds. 

The reigning series champion scored his first Cup triumph of the season and the 16th of his career. This marked the third time he’s won both stages and then the race. He led 125 of the 200 laps, including the final 32.

“We were just fighting hard and never gave up on it,’’ Truex told Fox Sports. “I knew we really had a good racecar after the first adjustment of the race. The thing just came alive. From there it was just about managing my tires and being smart.’’

MORE: Race results 

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. takes points lead

Kyle Larson, who had won the past four races on 2-mile tracks, finished second. Kyle Busch, who finished second the past two races, was third. Brad Keselowski placed fourth and his Penske teammate Joey Logano completed the top five.

Kevin Harvick’s bid for a fourth consecutive race ended when he and Kyle Larson made contact on the backstretch less than 40 laps into the race. The contact forced Harvick into the outside wall. He lost two laps for repairs and was down three laps before the first stage ended on Lap 60.

“I went down to side draft and he was coming up and we touched and it just knocked the thing to the right and spun out,’’ Harvick told Fox Sports. “I don’t know that that’s his fault. I think that’s my fault for coming down the race track right there and trying to side draft and as we touched, it just came back up the race track. Just trying to get a little bit too much right there.

“Just my fault back there.’’

No driver has won four consecutive Cup race since Jimmie Johnson did so in 2007.

Stage 1 winner: Martin Truex Jr.

Stage 2 winner: Martin Truex Jr.

How Martin Truex Jr. won: He lost the lead on pit road during the final stop of the day but exited behind Kyle Busch, dueled with the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and pulled away to an easy victory.

Who had a good day: Jimmie Johnson’s ninth-place finish was his first top 10 of the season. It also ended a streak of 10 consecutive races without a top 10. … A week after placing four drivers in the top 10, Joe Gibbs Racing had three cars in the top 10 with Kyle Busch third, Denny Hamlin sixth and Erik Jones seventh. … Austin Dillon placed 10th for his first top-10 result since his Daytona 500 victory.

Who had a bad day: Kevin Harvick saw his chances of a fourth consecutive win end after contact with Kyle Larson early in the race. He finished 35th. … Trevor Bayne hit the wall and finished 37th, the second time in the first five races he’s placed 30th or worse.

Quote of the day: “I didn’t do anything wrong,’’ Kyle Larson said on the radio to his team about the contact with Kevin Harvick.

Notable: Martin Truex Jr.’s victory marked his fourth consecutive top-five finish.

Next: The series goes to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500 race at 2 p.m. ET on March 25.

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