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.