Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Podcast: Denny Hamlin on his sitdown with Joe Gibbs about speeding penalties

Leave a comment

Denny Hamlin’s penchant for pushing the accelerator too much in the pits recently earned “a sitdown with the boss.”

On the NASCAR on NBC Podcast, Hamlin said team owner Joe Gibbs recently admonished him for accumulating four speeding penalties through the first 10 races of the season.

“I think he’s offended a little bit when they kind of make jokes on TV about it,” Hamlin said with a laugh about the meeting with Gibbs. “He’s like, ‘This is not a joking matter. This is costing you finishes.’

“It’s amazing we’ve had the finishes we’ve had with the penalties we’ve had. I think if we can just tighten things up a little bit. Honestly, we have not had many mistake-free races this year. I think once I have a race where there’s nothing going on that doesn’t set me to the back of the pack, middle of the race, results are going to show a lot better.”

Hamlin was caught for speeding at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and twice at Talladega Superspeedway. Each penalty occurred on entry to the pits.

The No. 11 Toyota driver said that’s been a consistency in his long history of getting caught for speeding.

“Most of our penalties has been entering the pits,” Hamlin said. “There’s so much data out there, I’m learning from it and trying to get better at it.”

One method for improvement is trying to understand how much reward and risk there is within the system used by drivers to stay under the limit. Cars don’t have speedometers, so a system of lights helps indicate when they are near the limit.

“Being more informed of that extra light, what does that amount to in feet,” Hamlin said. “Tell me is it a car length? Two feet? That will help manage my risk as well.”

To listen to the podcast, click here for Apple Podcasts, here for Spotifyhere for Stitcher, here for Google Play or play the Art19 embed below:

Podcast: Denny Hamlin on his business career past, present and future

Leave a comment

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., — If life as a full-time NASCAR driver hadn’t worked out, Denny Hamlin probably would be selling trailer hitches.

But his family’s business instead sustained the Chesterfield, Virginia, native’s Late Model career, helping secure the breaks to get hired by Joe Gibbs Racing.

Hamlin, 37, has 31 victories through 12-plus seasons in NASCAR’s premier series, and though he plans to race for several more years, he eventually will retire.

What will he be doing then?

Maybe selling trailer hitches.

“I really want to run a day-to-day business,” Hamlin said on the 138th episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast about his post-NASCAR career. “I don’t want to be there at 6 a.m. and open the doors, but I want to be there 9 to 3, checking on things, running things, making sure everyone’s happy.

“I just don’t know what kind it is. It might be a trailer shop. I loved going to work at the trailer shop with my dad when I was 17 years old. I knew everything about the business, I knew how to sell trailers. I knew how to build them. I knew how to install the hitches, do all the wiring. I knew how to do everything in that business. Maybe that’s something I go back to when I’m done.”

Hamlin, who had a brief run as the owner of a Charlotte nightclub, said he will open a new hamburger joint (a Little Big Burger franchise) soon near his home in Cornelius, North Carolina.

From left, Billy Horschel, Shannon Miller, Rosa Santos, Mary Lynn Schroeder and Denny Hamlin after Santos was selected by the panel as the winner of a Junior Business Challenge qualifier (Associated Press).

That made him a qualified candidate to help as a judge last week in sponsor FedEx’s Junior Business Challenge (with Junior Achievement Worldwide). The program, which runs in conjunction with PGA Tour events, relies on a high-profile panel to judge business concepts from a group of JA students with entrepreneurial aspirations. In an event before last weekend’s Players Championship, Hamlin judged entries along with Olympic medal gymnast and PGA golfer Billy Horschel (who joined Hamlin on the podcast).

In his evaluation, the 2016 Daytona 500 winner probably applied some lessons from his teenage years working for his father.

“I’d always complain to him that our business says we close at 5 o’clock, and yet if someone pulls in at 5:02 and needs something fixed on their trailer, if we’re here, we’re working,” he said. “The hours on the door were theoretical. He was all about making the customer happy. I don’t care how long it takes, we’re going to stay here and finish the job.

“If we told someone we get it done on this day, then it’s done. Whatever it takes. People really came back to our business a lot because of my dad and his mentality that they knew we’ll do the job and fix it no matter what the hours were. That hard work was infectious and reminded me that if I ever got back into running a business it would be that type of feeling of going to your buddy’s place to get your stuff fixed, not a business.”

But Hamlin, who signed a multiyear contract extension with JGR before last season, said he doesn’t have a timeline for when he’ll return to regular hours.

“The current contract goes quite a ways, and I probably want to do one more after that,” he said. “As long as I can win races, be competitive and be up front, I don’t know how long I’ll race.

“But I want to be busy outside racing. I’ll be stir crazy. I can only play golf so much. Basketball, my body will only go so long.”

In the podcast, Hamlin also discusses:

–His 2018 season, in which decent speed has been muted by a lack of execution (such as speeding penalties);

–How the professional rhythm of a golfer differs from a race car driver (with Horschel also offering his perspective);

–The return of Matt Kenseth and how JGR has adapted without him;

–What Denny would shoot at TPC Sawgrass.

To listen to the podcast, click here for Apple Podcasts, here for Spotifyhere for Stitcher, here for Google Play or play the Art19 embed below:

Ryan: Putting the ‘fun’ back in the rulebook? Spoiler alert: Here’s how

Leave a comment

Remember when talking about NASCAR rules was fun?

No, really fun. Hours of endless debates and discussions about driver rivalries, team animosity and manufacturer intrigue.

Fun. You can’t beat that.

In the 1990s, Camp NASCAR might not have been a fun place to live (or officiate), but it was a beguiling place to observe.

Much of that was the megawatt personalities of the drivers, but some of it was attributable to the constant wars over how many inches of spoiler help Ford or Chevrolet was lobbying for and often getting.

This was an era in which the bodies were more distinct, and the rulebook was much smaller. It was undoubtedly a weekly headache to administer with the long line of agitated drivers and owners raising holy hell at the NASCAR hauler after every race.

Two decades later, that delightful complaining has been replaced by impenetrable complication.

Talking about rules isn’t fun in today’s heavily legislated and officiated world of big-league stock-car racing.

It’s no longer a debate about the famous and iconic brands (Chevy, Ford, Toyota) that pour a few hundred million dollars annually into NASCAR.

It’s become the domain of pinion shims and window support braces. The in-the-weeds stuff. There is room for that in NASCAR to showcase its technical appeal and technological ingenuity.

There’s no room for that in SiriusXM NASCAR Radio banter, though. Or in the other national media platforms that primarily drive the narratives that make NASCAR a mainstream sporting entity. Those should revolve around the stars and cars of the Cup Series and their most relatable backstories – not the intricate parts and pieces that propel them to victory lane.

For example, a 46-year-old former champion returns after an unwanted 11-race layoff to start the 2018 season. And he re-enters NASCAR’s premier series precisely as his longtime contemporaries are crowing about regularly drubbing the band of ballyhooed Millennials that threaten to oust them from their rides in the same way.

That sounds like a good story, no?

Unfortunately, Matt Kenseth’s intriguing comeback at Kansas Speedway this weekend has been muted because of Wednesday’s latest avalanche of midweek postrace penalties from Dover that sucked all the oxygen from competing topics with the subtlety and pleasure of a 2X4 to the forehead.

Eradicating midweek penalties has been suggested ad nauseam the past few years, and it’s well documented why they still are happening (the level of necessary inspection scrutiny is available only at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord).

Kevin Harvick made an impassioned case for why this wasn’t such a hot idea (among many issues he raised about the penalty after his Las Vegas victory). Even NASCAR officials have shown a desire to get out of the business of issuing points deductions and crewmember suspensions three days after a race.

It doesn’t matter how this gets addressed. It’s a situation that needs to be fixed, stat.

So how about going back to the future: Find a way to shrink the rulebook and open up the manufacturer competition again.

Refocus any competition discussions on spoiler heights and driver styles (“who is best suited for this type of handling package?”) instead of obtuse conversation stoppers like planar mating surfaces and flat splitters.

Like everything in racing, this is easier said than done. It certainly will be harder for NASCAR, whose officials would return to the ear-splitting days of listening to nonstop lobbying (i.e., whining) for more parity among makes.

But it might be worth the effort, money and time spent if it results in keeping the attention most prominently on the stars and the cars they drive.

That sounds fun.


NASCAR found itself in an unwinnable situation at Dover International Speedway near the end of the first stage Sunday.

With a dozen cars close to running out of fuel and only about four wreckers to help push them back to the pits (how would you like to make that decision on which drivers benefit from NASCAR’s largesse?), vice president of competition Scott Miller explained Monday why the pits were opened almost immediately after the stage instead of waiting for a commercial break per normal.

It was the right call given the alternative – if several cars had run out of gas, the furor would have been much greater and the implications are more unfair. But this is something that must be done extremely sparingly.

It burned Denny Hamlin’s team, which pitted the No. 11 Toyota instead of limping to the pits (as it could have) because it rightfully expected the pits would open much later.

“I didn’t know they were going to open the pits early,” Hamlin said on an episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast that will be released next week. “I would have ran another lap. That’s a little frustrating. The crew chief was telling me I could make it to the checkered but not the pit open.”

But it turned out if Hamlin had waited a lap, he would have had enough fuel (and an extra five stage points from keeping his spot).

“I had some talks with Miller and (Steve) O’Donnell about it,” Hamlin said. “If I would have known you’d open the pits, I wouldn’t have pitted early, and I think a lot of people based their strategy off that.

“But I also see their point of what happens if there are six cars out of fuel on the apron? Who gets the tow truck and push first while you have someone sitting on the apron for three laps, and then they’re pissed off? I kind of see where (NASCAR) is going there. But at some point, teams will make decisions on where to pit, and it’s kind of on them.”

There always are circumstances similar to these during a race – for example, NASCAR often must choose between a red flag or running out many laps under yellow in the event of a wreck that requires a long cleanup – so it’s unavoidable. The key is managing it in a way that doesn’t disrupt the natural flow of a race.


As Dustin Long detailed exhaustively in last week’s Friday 5 feature, the time to question the lagging results of the new Camaro has arrived. Chevrolet’s new model hasn’t shown much potential for pure speed, aside from the performance of Kyle Larson.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is sort of this year’s version of 2017 series champion Martin Truex Jr., who was far ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyotas last year in the rollout of the 2018 Camry. But that’s where the apples to apples comparison ends.

Nearly a third of the way into last season, it was obvious the new Camry had speed. Though Toyota won only twice in the first 11 races, its drivers led the most laps six times. The lack of victories was because of JGR’s circumstances instead of a lack of performance.

This is less true with the Camaro, which has a last-lap win in the Daytona 500 and has led the most laps only once (Larson at Bristol Motor Speedway). At Dover, the highest finisher was Jimmie Johnson in ninth, and Alex Bowman drove the only Camaro to lead laps (26 of 400).

It might be a case where the struggles are less about the new model and more about the teams running it. Aside from Chase Elliott, lead Chevy team Hendrick Motorsports struggled in 2017, and the four-car team still seems to be finding its footing this year with a less experienced lineup.

The departure of Stewart-Haas Racing, which is side by side with Team Penske for top Ford team, also might be hurting Chevrolet more than a year later.


A sidelight to the Chevrolet struggles is that it also has hampered the development of the 2018 youth brigade with Elliott, Larson, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Bubba Wallace and Austin Dillon (who made his feelings known Sunday night) trying to excel in the Camaro.

On Wednesday’s NASCAR America, analyst Dale Jarrett made that point (along with evaluating whether Ryan Blaney has reached “success” yet) and also noted that the hype around the marketing of the young drivers (editor’s note: plead guilty) would have been better balanced with a focus on the older set.

That’s good advice for the future and also good context for Kevin Harvick’s incessantly delightful jabs at the next generation.


One positive of this week’s midweek penalties?

Well, it did steer the discussion away from a topic that no one in Charlotte or Daytona Beach wanted to highlight.

That said, Harvick’s comments Tuesday night about a potential NASCAR sale were notable, and it will be interesting to see what else is said this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

Podcast: Trevor Bayne needs to ‘rebuild reputation’ as driver

1 Comment

In the wake of Wednesday’s announcement that Matt Kenseth would be returning to Roush Fenway Racing in a part-time capacity for the rest of the season, the odd man out was Trevor Bayne.

Kenseth and Bayne will share the No. 6 Ford with Kenseth making his 2018 debut May 12 at Kansas Speedway. What’s in store for them both beyond this season is unknown.

When Kenseth talked with NASCAR America’s Marty Snider after the announcement, he had yet to talk with Bayne about their new situation.

“I’ve known Trevor for a long time,” Kenseth said. “Trevor is a great, great guy. Nobody likes being in the spot he’s in necessarily right now. But I think after he thinks about it for a few days and what he really desires and what he wants out of it, knowing Trevor, I think he’s going to come in and work even harder and try to be better. So I’m looking forward to having that conversation.”

Bayne’s prospects going forward were discussed on the latest NASCAR America Debrief podcast episode with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte.

Both agreed the 2011 Daytona 500 winner will need to work to “rebuild his reputation” as a driver, with Letarte comparing Bayne’s potential future to the career of JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler and Earnhardt likening it to Justin Allgaier‘s.

“Trevor Bayne’s in a position much like Justin Allgaier was in years ago where he’s got a partner that believes in him in AdvoCare,” Earnhardt said. “If I’m him, I’m on the phone with them right now and talking to them, ‘Do you want to work with me in the future, we can go over here and look at this opportunity or look at this opportunity in Xfinity or the Truck Series,’ wherever it is. I would be trying to make sure I have a very strong relationship with them because that’s going to be the key to making any move to continue his driving career.

“He’s unlikely to get an opportunity that’s rewarding without some financial support.”

Earnhardt added: “He has to rebuild his reputation as a race car driver and that’s the only way to do it, is to go win races and run well.”

Letarte said he believes the situation between Kenseth, Bayne and Roush Fenway is “past awkward” given Bayne’s results. He has run in the top 15 in 10.5 percent of the laps run this season. Bayne’s average finish is 23.9 — compared to 19.5 last year — and he ranks 25th in the series in average running position (23.0).

“I think if anybody finds this awkward, then shame on them,” Letarte said. “Let’s just be honest. Stats tell a pretty accurate story. Comparing your teammates, comparing the field, there’s a hundred different ways you can do this. If at any point Trevor Bayne is shocked or anything like that, then shame on his own management team and Roush Fenway for leading him down this path of disbelief that everything was going to be OK.

“Should he be upset? Sure. Emotion comes into it. Is it going to be awkward the first time they meet? Yes. But I think Trevor Bayne should be and I will say is smart enough to realize, ‘the more awkward this is, the worse it probably is for me.’ ”

Letarte also assessed how he viewed Kenseth’s return for the future health of Roush Fenway despite the lack of detail about how long the deal is with the 2003 series champion.

“I love the fact that they didn’t try to put structure around everything,” Letarte said. “Not every road trip can be planned, A -to-B, every stop. Sometimes you have to say, ‘Hey man, it’s cold here, we’re heading south, we’re going to get on 85 and see where we go.’ And that’s what I heard from Roush Fenway. ‘Where we’re at is no good. We’ve been to the right and it’s no good, so we’re going to go to the left and that involves Matt Kenseth.”

Earnhardt believes Kenseth will return to Roush next season as the full-time driver of the No. 6.

“That’s my hope if I’m an owner of the car, that this change brings performance,” he said. “I think that’s what Matt wants. And Matt said that he doesn’t think he’s a long-term solution for the 6 car. He sees an opportunity to try to improve the team and help the team on all fronts.

“He comes in there and does really well in the car, fires up some partners, sparks some interest from Corporate America to get involved in the team, and then they can move on to the next season with Matt as the full-time driver. I don’t believe you keep Matt and Bayne together as a part-time deal. That doesn’t happen.”

To listen to this week’s NASCAR America Debrief, click here for Apple Podcasts, here for Stitcher, here for Google Play, or play the Art19 embed below.

 and on Facebook

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the lessons learned from hashing it out with Kyle Busch

Leave a comment

During the 2011 Speedweeks, Kyle Busch stopped by Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s bus at Daytona International Speedway to offer a present even though their long-running feud was still simmering.

The gift? A box of M&Ms.

“Out of nowhere,” Earnhardt recalled during the NASCAR America Debrief podcast Wednesday. “Couple of days later, I text him and was like, ‘You gave me these M&Ms, were you going around to everybody’s bus and giving them away?’ ‘Nope. Just you and one other guy.’ ‘Why?’ ‘I don’t know, thought you might want some M&Ms.’

“(Busch) would do things that were so out of character, but that’s not it. That was his character. That’s also who Kyle is. He’s a guy who hates to lose. He’s a guy who is a jerk sometimes. He’s a guy who reacts the wrong way in certain situations.

“But he’s also a guy who loves his family and puts a lot of effort into his race team. As an owner, he takes a lot of pride in that. He’s thoughtful about people who are part of his life. There’s just a lot of layers to the guy.”

Earnhardt is much more aware of those layers after hosting Busch as a guest on his weekly “Dale Jr. Download” podcast this week. The pair spent 90 minutes reminiscing about the night of their infamous wreck while battling for the lead at Richmond Raceway 10 years ago and about the reasons they harbored ill will in many years since then.

Today’s NASCAR America (6 p.m. on NBCSN) will be fully devoted to the discussion in which Busch and Earnhardt buried the hatchet, and the process was therapeutic in many ways.

“I’d say that the whole thing I took away from it was it made me think about things that I’m doing today, relationships that aren’t great today, and I wonder how many bad assumptions are in that that are causing those relationships to stay bad,” Earnhardt said on the third episode of NASCAR America Debrief. “How many people do I need to go up to and say, ‘Man, I need to talk to you. Is this really how you’re feeling?’ Because I bet you 100 percent of the time, I’ll find out I was completely wrong, and it would have been an easy situation to resolve had I broke the ice.

“When people say things, what you hear is not exactly how they feel. A guy reacts and is lashing out, he’s really looking for you to say, ‘Hey man, it’s OK, it’s fine.’ What you hear makes you angry, and you make an assumption.”

NASCAR America Debrief guest Steve Letarte said he appreciates the ways that Busch expresses his feelings bare. “It’s easier to cheer for people,” Letarte said. “Drivers are people. I like drivers to not be robots. Kyle Busch, like it or don’t like it, it’s straightforward what you’re going to get. I think he’s wonderful for the sport. I don’t care if you’re booing or cheering.”

But it was difficult for Earnhardt to be involved in the drama for years.

“It sucked,” he said. “All those years we were angry with each other, mad and hated each other’s guts, were not fun. I didn’t like it. It bothered me.

“It was like going to work and having to sit next to somebody you could not stand to be in the same room with. I knew if we talked and hashed it out, I would be able to be in the same room with him and be OK. But neither one of us were smart enough to do that for the longest time.”

That was partly the result of “we made so many wrong assumptions about each other through that whole process,” Earnhardt said. “There’s no denying that he didn’t like me, and I didn’t like him.

“And I thought he was a bad person, and he thought I was a bad person, but there were assumptions made about what the other was thinking. He even said at one point, ‘Man I was waiting on you to break the ice. The whole time.’ I’m thinking me, ‘You spun me out. I was waiting on you to come apologize to me.’ He’s like, ‘You were older, your stature in the sport, I’m thinking you would be the guy to say let’s sit down and sort this out.’”

To listen to the Dale Jr. Download, click on the links below.

To listen to this week’s NASCAR America Debrief, click here for Apple Podcasts, here for Stitcher, here for Google Play, or play the Art19 embed above.

Tune in to NASCAR America on NBCSN at 6 p.m. today for the special Dale Jr. Download episode.