IRVING, Texas – For Denny Hamlin, Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway was enough evidence to answer the question of whether the 2.66-mile restrictor-plate track should be an elimination race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“‘No’ is the short answer,” Hamlin said Wednesday at a Texas Motor Speedway media event held at the Cool River Cafe.
Three days after being eliminated from the postseason with his 37th-place finish, Hamlin gave his take on Talladega’s placement as the last race in the second round of the Chase – something it will have again next year.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver says the relative tameness of Sunday’s race – two cautions for fluid on the track in the first 185 laps of race before the controversial restart attempt that took out 11 cars – comes down to 31 cars not wanting to get in the way of 12.
“We went (132) green flag laps because everyone is afraid to race around people with yellow spoilers and it’s not as authentic as superspeedway racing has been in the past because people are afraid to cause a wreck with a Chaser,” Hamlin said.
Last year’s fall Talladega race had three cautions for multi-car accidents, which involved a combined 21 cars. Hamlin’s JGR teammate Kyle Busch was eliminated from Chase contention due to one of the wrecks.
Hamlin said he and other drivers and teams believe a potential solution to having an authentic Talladega race that still serves in a “wild card” function to the Chase is swapping it out with Richmond International Raceway, which hosts the regular season finale.
“That’s the last chance for people to wild card their way into the playoffs. That would make for an exciting, exciting race,” Hamlin said.
An exciting race where drivers in the back of the pack would be “absolutely going for it,” Hamlin said. But that’s not the case with drivers currently “scared” to cause a wreck that impacts the hopes of the 12 drivers looking to make up the eight spots in the third round.
“In other sports, when your competition makes a mistake, you capitalize on it,” Hamlin said. “You get to reap the benefits. In our sport, at superspeedways, someone up there makes a mistake, you get caught in it and it had nothing to do with you.”
The driver of the No. 11 Toyota is fine with the placement of the rest of the tracks in the Chase, saying there’s a “good balance” with the inclusion of five 1.5-mile tracks. But Hamlin added he would like a “big overhaul” to the overall schedule.
“Run prime time races during the week, get our season much, much shorter,” Hamlin said. “Because (from) the first week or second week of February until Thanksgiving is really, really long.”
The 2015 season will end on Nov. 22. NASCAR announced earlier this week the full 2016 schedule, which will start on Feb. 13 with the Sprint Unlimited exhibition at Daytona International Speedway. The 2016 season will conclude at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.
“I would like to see a couple races a week or something to break it up to where we’re not (racing) every week from one end of the calendar to the other,” Hamlin said.
There likely won’t be major changes to the Sprint Cup schedule until after 2020. NASCAR reached a five-year agreement with 23 tracks to host races. It’s an agreement Hamlin isn’t a fan of.
“No. But I think they shook hands with themselves,” Hamlin said. “The tracks and NASCAR are pretty much the same thing.”