Long: Denny Hamlin did not need to apologize for Chase Elliott wreck

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Denny Hamlin apologized to Chase Elliott and his fans on Twitter after Sunday’s race.

It wasn’t needed.

This is what short-track racing has become, whether you like it or not. Especially with a spot in the championship round next month in Miami.

What happened Sunday night was what has happened at many short tracks throughout the country at lower levels, just that punches weren’t thrown in this case. Give Hamlin and Elliott credit for having a heated discussion on the backstretch that didn’t lead to fisticuffs.

As NASCAR Chairman Brian France has said many times, stock car racing is a contact sport. That’s what fans saw Sunday under the lights at Martinsville Speedway.

NASCAR didn’t issue any penalties or send anyone to the hauler after the race, thus it obviously was fine with what happened between Elliott and Brad Keselowski and then Hamlin and Elliott in the final laps.

So the apology Denny Hamlin sent after the race wasn’t necessary.

Want to be mad? Sure you can be mad at Hamlin, but be mad at NASCAR for setting up a win-and-you’re-in playoff system. Of course that’s the same system many of you cheered when it wasn’t your driver who lost a chance to win because of a similar type finish.

Give credit to Hamlin for saying that young drivers shouldn’t race like he did in the final laps, but that’s how most drivers races now and it’s not going to change … unless NASCAR wants it to change and NASCAR saw nothing wrong with the “bull—- chaos’’ in the final laps, as Hamlin called it. 

Fact is, that’s how most everyone races. Mark Martin is gone.

Let’s be honest, an apology doesn’t change things. It doesn’t put Elliott back into the lead. It doesn’t make him less angry. It doesn’t take away the fact that he’s got a major payback to deliver to Hamlin just about any time he wants. 

“I got punted from behind and wrecked in Turn 3 leading the race,’’ Elliott said. “I don’t know what his problem was. It was unnecessary. I hadn’t raced him dirty all day long. There was no reason for that. He comes over and talks to me a second ago and tells me he has somebody pushing him into Turn 3. And I thought that was funny because there was no one within two car lengths of him into Turn 3 behind myself.

“We had an opportunity to go straight to Homestead and because of him, we don’t.”

Said Hamlin: “He said I wrecked him. Obviously Ray Charles saw that. Obviously it wasn’t intentional. I wanted to move him out of the way. It was just not enough grip on the race track for him to save it. He washed (Keselowski) up the race track as well. We can play favorites if we want. Unfortunately, this is a ticket to Homestead at stake.’’

Yes, there’s a limit but until NASCAR is willing to be more aggressive in how it officiates the end of these races, then what Hamlin did was fair game.

As winner Kyle Busch said afterward: “Life ain’t fair.’’

And neither is short-track racing.

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Denny Hamlin offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

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Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.

“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”

Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’

Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.

They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.

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Clint Bowyer leads opening Cup practice at Sonoma

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Clint Bowyer was the fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Bowyer, the winner of the most recent Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan, posted a lap of 93.590 mph. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (93.546 mph), Joey Logano (93.172), Jamie McMurray (93.049) and Daniel Suarez (92.746).

Sixth was Jimmie Johnson (92.661). He was followed by Michael McDowell (92.650), Martin Truex Jr. (92.614), AJ Allmendinger (92.596) and Ryan Newman (92.595).

Click here for full practice report

Final Cup practice will be from 5:40 – 6:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place Saturday.

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Kyle Larson: ‘I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing’

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Kyle Larson‘s comment on Twitter earlier this week that he would like to run full-time in the World of Outlaws sprint car series “before I’m 40” might have riled some fans, but Larson says it was not meant as anything bad toward NASCAR.

“I don’t know, I think maybe some people aren’t quite as open-minded, maybe,” the 26-year-old Larson said Friday at Sonoma Raceway. “It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now I wanted to do it. I mean 15 years from now that would put me 20 years in Cup. So, that is a long time. 

“I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport (Gordon raced in Cup 23 full-time seasons), but I don’t know, maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing.

“I enjoy sprint cars, and I feel like I talk about sprint cars a lot just to open people’s eyes to that style of racing because it’s a great form or racing and so is NASCAR. So, I don’t know, I just want fans to be fans of motorsports not just NASCAR and not just sprint cars. I would like to see everybody just enjoy all of racing and I think that is what I do. Maybe I don’t do a good job at it sometimes, but you know, I enjoy racing all types of vehicles. Most fans get it, but some fans aren’t quite open-minded enough.”

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to the World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said on that podcast in the offseason. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

Larson just finished running five nights of Ohio Sprint Speedweek. He won two of those nights. Rain postponed a sixth event before the feature that Larson was to have run. Larson said he has the dirt track race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his schedule. Indianapolis is building a quarter-mile dirt track inside Turn 3 to run during the NASCAR weekend there in September.

Larson is in his fifth full Cup season. He has five career series wins. Although winless this season, Larson has finished runner-up three times (Auto Club Speedway, Bristol and Pocono).

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Four Cup cars to be docked practice time at Sonoma

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Four cars will miss time in today’s opening practice at Sonoma Raceway for violations, NASCAR announced Friday.

David Ragan will miss 30 minutes for failing inspection before the race at Michigan three times.

Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne each will be docked 15 minutes for failing inspection twice before the Michigan race.

Today’s opening Cup practice goes from 2:40 – 3:55 p.m. ET.

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