Tuesday, August 06, 2013

COMMENTARY: Random Thoughts On Denny and Kyle

A few random thoughts on the recent dust-up involving Denny Hamlin and former driver- turned analyst Kyle Petty. 

Thought #1: Petty Was Correct In His Assessment of Hamlin’s Season. Since returning to the seat of the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota on May 11 following an injury mandated four-week layoff, Hamlin has floundered in his attempt to earn a come-from-behind Chase berth. An average finish of 23.2 since in those 11 starts includes five finishes of 30th or worse, and leaves him a distant 25th in the championship standings, with no realistic chance of making the Chase. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, have both run consistently at the front of the pack while Hamlin has struggled, so it’s tough to blame his lackluster season on equipment.  

On NASCAR Raceday Sunday, Petty called Hamlin “not relevant” to the 2013 Chase discussion. And on that count, he is most certainly correct 

Thought #2: Petty Has A Right To His Opinion. No matter whether you agree with him or not, Petty is paid to tell us what he thinks. It is a role he clearly relishes, and whether by mistake or by design, he has become NASCAR’s resident contrarian. The third-generation NASCAR driver is willing to upset the apple cart and push buttons at a moment’s notice, and doesn’t seem to mind the controversy that often follows his blunt, straightforward commentary. He calls people out by name – as proven recently when he said of Danica Patrick, “I don't think she's ever going to be a race car driver" -- and is a frequent critic of NASCAR, its drivers, crew chiefs and teams. That approach sometimes gets him in hot water with people who don’t appreciate his point of view, but it doesn’t mean he should be silenced. 

Thought #3: Petty Was Incorrect About Hamlin’s Perceived Role at JGR. Petty criticized Hamlin for calling himself “the face of Joe Gibbs Racing,” a characterization Hamlin never made. The Virginia native said he was the face of JGR’s No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota team, which he clearly is. As a member of the NASCAR media, Petty has a responsibility to quote people accurately at all times. He failed to do so in this instance, and has since apologized. 

Thought #4: Hamlin Has A Right To Be Angry. In fact, I’m surprised the Joe Gibbs Racing driver hasn’t gone off on one of these self-appointed medical experts before now. Hamlin has been examined by the finest doctors in their field since suffering his injury at Auto Club Speedway, and they say he is jeopardizing neither his health nor his career by continuing to compete.  

If his doctors approve, if Joe Gibbs Racing approves and if he still wants to race, who is Kyle Petty (or anyone else) to tell him he shouldn’t?  

Denny’s life, Denny’s health, Denny’s career… Denny’s choice.  

Thought #5: Leave Bradley Out Of It! During his NASCAR Raceday comments, Petty said of Hamlin, “He's started to talk a lot. I think he's got a little bit of 'BK (Brad Keselowski) Syndrome' in him right now.”  

Excuse me? How did Keselowski get dragged into this mess?  

While I have no earthly idea what 'BK Syndrome' is, it doesn’t sound complimentary to the defending Sprint Cup Series champion. There are some in the NASCAR garage who believe Keselowski mashes the verbal gas pedal before putting his brain in gear. Whether that’s true or not (and I believe it’s not), the Penske Racing driver has proven to be an unpredictable, outspoken and opinionated spokesman for the sport. 

Someone as opinionated as Kyle Petty should be the last person to criticize Keselowski for being the same. 

Thought #6: Enough With The Name Calling. An angry Hamlin called Petty “a moron” prior to Sunday’s race. After crashing to an early exit at Pocono, he lambasted Petty again to waiting reporters, calling him, “an analyst, but not a very informative one because he doesn't know anything. He has a lot of opinions about a lot of drivers, but he never once talked to any of them. To be an analyst, you've got to be in the trenches to find out the stories.”  

Hamlin also implied that Petty’s driving career had more to do with genetics than talent, saying, “I got here on hard work and winning. I didn't get here like he got here.'' 

Professional athletes are often the target of criticism, justified or not. It’s a hazard of the trade. Thin skin is an issue that has plagued Hamlin in the past, distracting him from his primary tasks; winning races and contending for championships. While there is no title on the line this season, Hamlin would do well to let comments like Petty’s slide, without comment or protest. 

It’s really not worth the bother.


  1. Anonymous2:48 PM

    Great Commentary! If Denny has the approval from NASCAR and JGR it should be his choice to compete.No doubt the crash at Auto Club and the recovery has been a setback for the #11 team.Once you get behind in Sprint Cup racing, You just don't get caught back up overnight.Just because Denny isn't in the chase,He still has chances to win at places like Richmond and Martinsville.And not being in the chase puts the team in the position of trying out R&D for 2014.The best revenge is success!

  2. Anonymous2:22 AM

    I agree good article. Kyle is calling like he see's it. Denny is the face of Fedex for JGR, however I do believe Kyle is speaking with a kernel of truth when he alluded that Hamlin thinks he is the face of JGR. Watching Hamlin for years and seeing his ego at work, Kyle was right on the money.

  3. Denny needs to take a lesson on dealing with the media from Danica. You do not get into a name calling fight with the media. It never pays and is counterproductive.
    Good article, Dave.

  4. Anonymous9:14 AM

    Well said Dave, as usual. I too was not happy that Kyle decided to drag BK into it. I'm a big supporter of Brad's and he is much more like Kyle than what Denny just said to the media.

  5. Anonymous9:23 AM

    Petty is paid to stir the pot, not just be a kiss up like everyone of the remaining lemmings. I may not always agree with him, but at least he tells it like it he thinks it is. The TV media has become parrots and repeat only the NA$CAR line. With
    regard to Denny, I remember what he said about Lagano and his
    racing abilities. KARMA?

  6. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Over the years, Danny has said some pretty stupid things about other people, so perhaps he should just shut up and drive. Last I checked, Kyle has quite a few Cup victories, so being the King's son wasn't the only thing to get him where he is. Kyle Petty is a not a NASCAR yes-man, a butt-kisser like Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond. Love him or hate him, the sport needs more folks like Petty.

  7. OK this one Dave? I like. Much more clarity to your views vs. the one earlier in the week re: this little dust-up. Well done as usual!

  8. Anonymous4:44 PM

    Denny Hamlin is pretty messed up and he absolutely needs to get out of that car and take care of things. Between his bad back and the garbage in his head he is nowhere near the level of performance his sponsors are paying for. I feel for his kid. Denny might have a ton of money but he's going to have to hire someone healthy enough to be the kid's Dad; throw a ball, go camping, or just roll around on the floor and wrassle. He can't even lift the kid...but he wants to keep driving. Talk about selfish.

  9. Anonymous7:35 PM

    Denny's head is his main problem. Unfortunately his mouth is attached to it. Denny overestimates his importance which in turn results in some really juvenile junk spewing out his mouth hole. Calling Kyle names is really a mature thing to do. I remember he had issues with Brad K and banged him around to show how tough he was. Same stuff didn't work on Joey and resulted in Denny getting his butt handed to him. It's just as crew chiefs tell drivers..............Shut up and drive