Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Tempers, Anyone?

I really felt bad for Denny Hamlin after his injury at Fontana. I mean, the pain had to be agonizing and it will keep him out of the car for a while. How horrible is that!

And then … Kevin Ware. Goodness, that was horrendous. My breath hitched and my stomach lurched when I finally willed myself to watch the replay, wanting to know myself what had everyone buzzing about some sort of injury. Gone was Hamlin’s still brutal injury from Fontana, and in its place was an image I’ll likely never be able to erase of a college athlete I had never heard of. Godspeed, Kevin Ware.

And you too, Denny.

Now, onto your questions:

“I’m still confused about who is replacing Denny Hamlin while he’s recovering from his injury. Is Mark Martin going to sub for him or not? Why can’t we just stick with one person??” Jessica

Yes .. and no … Mark Martin will sub in for Hamlin this weekend at Martinsville. Afterwards, Brian Vickers will take over, which works out nicely for JGR since Vickers already races for them in Nationwide.

As far as your last question, it comes down to the bottom line of almost every other part of NASCAR these days: Sponsors. Apparently when Gibbs issued the “official” release of Mark Martin being Hamlin’s full-time sub, it hadn’t been cleared with sponsor Aaron’s. That’s a big no-no, since Aaron’s is the one who pays those teams to be able to race in the first place. Thankfully for both sides, it was worked out just fine but not without confusing everyone else in the process.

Mark Martin is subbing for Denny Hamlin in four races?! Well – more like one. For now. Definitely, maybe.

Interestingly enough, however, is the fact that Vickers may not need to sub in for Hamlin for that long in the first place. That’s according to Hamlin, of course, but he’s still put him at around “80%” in terms of his recovery process. He also, surprisingly enough, said he feels like he could drive the car this weekend in Martinsville. While that final decision will be made by real medical professionals rather than Hamlin’s surprisingly high pain tolerance level, it, this whole cluster of a PR mess might have been all for naught if Hamlin’s recovery goes much quicker than expected.

“I heard that Ryan Newman called Joey Logano’s move in Fontana a “chicken” move. I’ve watched the replay and I don’t see how Logano did anything wrong. What the hell is he talking about?” Terry

Terry, Logano didn’t do anything wrong but Newman is talking about Logano’s block on Tony Stewart at the end of the race in Fontana.

First of all, I think it’s ridiculous that we’re even still talking about this. Secondly, I find it even more ridiculous that drivers of the caliber of Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman—who apparently made it up the ranks the “right” way according to them—still have a problem with blocking. I agree that blocking is probably not the smartest move you can make, and that it comes with its own risks. However, I don’t understand how a three-time champion who has raced in several different series on different types of tracks still manages to complain about competitors not letting him pass.

Ryan Newman – who has a reputation of being the hardest driver to pass even if he’s two laps down – took a few pot shots at Joey Logano defending his position for a shot at the win at Auto Club Speedway. How dare he.

Either Stewart is so arrogant and has such a sense of entitlement that he thinks every driver should just pull over and let him go, or he thinks the rules apply to everyone but him. Apparently Newman is smoking from the same pipe. Whatever, though. Basically the short answer is that Newman was bitching because Logano attempted to maintain his potential winning position.

“Summer, as a media member, I was wondering if you thought drivers should have “cool down” periods or be required to watch instant replays before giving comments. It just seems like too many drivers are getting in trouble—either from NASCAR or the court of public opinion—because of comments made in the heat of the moment. It would save everyone a lot of trouble.” Daniel

Well, as a media member, I’d hate that. Regardless of whether or not people like what they hear, the most genuine and honest comments come in the heat of the moment. Give drivers the chance to cool down and they’ll be fed some watered down, sponsor friendly bullet points that will be so predictable that you could probably say the words right along with them.

As far as the drivers getting in trouble, that’s hardly the media’s fault. Heat of the moment or not, drivers are responsible for what comes out of their own mouths. If a driver drops the f-bomb during a live interview just minutes after crashing and they end up having to cough up the dough for the fine, it’s not the media’s fault for asking. Part of the problem, though, is with NASCAR’s over-the-top reactions to critical comments. I still don’t understand the Hamlin fine a few weeks ago, and all of the drivers have been walking on eggshells with their comments ever since.

If you think that the drivers’ insincerity is bad now, give them a cool down period and see what happens. You’ll probably march to the racetrack yourself and stick a microphone in their face just for some desperately needed spontaneity.

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