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Denny Hamlin is Wrong, Even When He's Right

Updated on August 14, 2013
Once again, Hamlin is left facing questions that had nothing to do with his performance Sunday
Once again, Hamlin is left facing questions that had nothing to do with his performance Sunday

Petty Blasts Hamlin Before Pocono Race

At least he didn't say Hamlin, "Isn't a real racer," as he did with Danica Patrick a few weeks ago
At least he didn't say Hamlin, "Isn't a real racer," as he did with Danica Patrick a few weeks ago

Once again, Denny Hamlin's comments off the track gained him more attention than his performance on it. Before it was over fairly innocuous comments on the early performance of NASCAR's new Gen 6 car. Now, however, he's made himself wrong by being right. His pre-race tweet and later on-camera comments regarding Kyle Petty only shine a spotlight on just how frustrating a season 2013 has been for the Fed Ex team. Hamlin would do himself a service by learning to let go- or at least let his car do the talking for the immediate future.


For those who missed them, here's what Kyle Petty had to say before Sunday's race:

  • “He's [Hamlin] started to talk a lot. He's talked about being the face of Joe Gibbs Racing. I think he's got a little bit of the 'BK (Brad Keselowski) syndrome' in him right now. He's not relevant to the sport right now as far as the Chase and what's going on in the Chase and winning the championship.”

Don't Hit Send!

Hamlin called Petty a "moron" before climbing into the car
Hamlin called Petty a "moron" before climbing into the car

That didn't sit well with Hamlin. Before the green flag fell at Pocono, he'd tweeted out his opinion, calling Petty a, “moron.” After crashing out of the race, he took it a step further, calling Petty out of touch with the sport he covered. Which was bad enough. But he then took it a step further, inferring that Petty's place in the sport came about only due to his last name.

  • “He's [Petty] an analyst, but he's not a very informed one. He doesn't know anything. My beef with Kyle is that he has a lot of opinions about a lot of drivers, but he's never once talked to any of them. To be an analyst, you have to be in the trenches finding out the stories. I got here on hard work and winning. I didn't get here like he got here.”

Petty In The Garage

Kyle Petty might be out of touch, but he's been in the garage in the last 10 years
Kyle Petty might be out of touch, but he's been in the garage in the last 10 years

The issues between Denny Hamlin and Kyle Petty go further than the normal give and take between athlete and media member. Back in 2007, when Petty was still an active competitor, he and Hamlin had a run-in at the 2007 Dover fall race resulting in a verbal assault by Petty. One thing we've learned by now is that drivers never forget. So you can bet that Petty is enjoying watching Hamlin get cut down a notch this year. And you can bet that Hamlin enjoyed watching the criticism Petty has taken over the years and in delivering his “moron” blast.

Petty on Wreck With Hamlin in 2007

Petty During His On-Track Days

Kyle Petty never won a championship but he did spent 30 years at the Sprint Cup level
Kyle Petty never won a championship but he did spent 30 years at the Sprint Cup level

Neither man is going to come out of this smelling like a winner. Petty is already wildly unpopular with a large portion of the NASCAR fanbase and many of them already consider him Dale Earnhardt Jr. Version 1.0; a man who won a few races but who never truly earned what he had in the sport and spent a lifetime trading on the accomplishments of his father. Hamlin is going through the most frustrating season of his career, with physical injuries added to the insult of being non-competitive for the first time in his NASCAR career.


Hamlin wasn't technically wrong when he said that he and Petty arrived in NASCAR through vastly different routes. Kyle Petty never measured up to the accomplishments of Richard Petty. That no one outside of Dale Earnhardt Sr. has measured up to those accomplishments is irrelevant. He's a Petty and was supposed to carry on the Petty legacy built by Lee and expanded by Richard. Instead, he won eight races over 30 years. He never finished above fifth in the points. Perhaps most damningly, his failure to be competitive at the end doomed Petty Enterprises and forced the King into a series of partnerships that only recently brought him back to influence in his own organization.


But being right in this case doesn't matter. What does Hamlin gain by bashing Petty? Kyle is a third string announcer on a third string network. Only a handful of people actually saw his comments and even fewer cared about them. Twitter only picked up the story when Hamlin fired back with his “moron” tweet. Major news organizations such as USA Today and ESPN then ran with the story after Hamlin's post-race diatribe. In other words, Hamlin once again brought all of this onto himself. Once again he made himself into the story and once again it comes after a difficult performance on the track.

Is Hamlin 100% Healthy?

A wreck earlier this season put Hamlin on the shelf for several weeks
A wreck earlier this season put Hamlin on the shelf for several weeks

Over the past two weeks, the calls for Hamlin to get out of the car and to undergo major back surgery have grown louder. Hamlin himself admits that 2013 is a lost cause and noted that he and crew chief Darian Grubb have experimented with a variety of setups trying to lay the foundation for next year. If that's the case, the argument goes, why continue to risk major injury in 2013? Why keep getting in the car when there's little to gain and so much to potentially lose? After all, Junior stepped out of the 88 last year over injury concerns and that was during the Chase. This wouldn't be the first time a driver was forced to the sidelines by injury. Moreover, surgery now would enable Hamlin the maximum recovery time and ensure his ability to be full throttle come Daytona next year.


I'm not a doctor. I don't know what the medical issues involved are. As long as Hamlin is medically cleared to get in the car, however, he has every right to do so. Given both his return this year and his prior return after knee surgery (and subsequent success), he's earned the right to sit in that seat. Whether or not he should is a matter that certainly will be much discussed over at Joe Gibbs Racing as the 2013 season grinds onward.

Keselowski Has Found Championship Gold

Brad Keselowski feuded with Hamlin in years past but he's a champion twice over now and Hamlin has yet to win one
Brad Keselowski feuded with Hamlin in years past but he's a champion twice over now and Hamlin has yet to win one

Hamlin and Logano In Better Times

Once upon a time, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano were each other's "genius" teammate
Once upon a time, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano were each other's "genius" teammate

Read Kyle's book

One thing that isn't up for discussion is Hamlin's need to find a way to control his temper. For all of Kyle Busch's celebrated blow ups (and they are many), Hamlin has become the biggest headache at JGR. His injury came about in large part because of feud with Joey Logano; the last-lap crash at Fontana might well not have happened had either racer had an ounce of respect for the other. He's had past run ins with multiple other drivers in the garage. And his 2013 season is already an exercise in futility despite being only just past the halfway point.


Unless Hamlin makes changes in how he reacts to his environment, the potential exists for a much larger meltdown in the weeks ahead. His over-reaction at Pocono showed that the strain is clearly building. He's buckled in the past, reacting badly to pressure applied by Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick in the 2010 title chase. At the time, his feud with Brad Keselowski was taken by many to show just how far Brad had to go. Looking back, maybe Denny was the one who still wasn't there yet, no matter how well he was doing on the track.


And the latest blow up won't help. No matter how right Denny is on Kyle Petty, he's wrong. He may not draw a fine from NASCAR this time around but all he accomplished was a 43rd place finish at Pocono and to cause observers to ask whether or not Denny should step away. Instead of talking about what they're building for 2014, JGR must now answer questions about how they've handled 2013. For the second time this season, Petty gains headlines for his pre-race comments. If Denny is to become the champion he sees himself to be, he needs to recognize that sometimes even when you're right, you're wrong.

Now It's Your Turn

How should Denny Hamlin have responded to Kyle Petty's pre-race comments?

See results

Second Poll: Who Was Right?

EDIT: Several of the commenters have noted that Kyle Petty isn't universally hated by NASCAR fans. He's done a world of good through his Victory Junction Gang camp and unlike many other commentators, isn't afraid to speak when he feels the situation warrants it. Given his 30+ years in the sport both behind the wheel and behind the microphone, he has a wealth of experience in the sport and he speaks for many who feel NASCAR has lost touch with his roots. So I wanted to add a second poll to see what you think; was it Kyle or Denny in the wrong here?

Now It's Your Turn, Part II

Was Kyle Petty right in his criticism of Denny Hamlin?

See results

Comments

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    • anotherleftturn profile image
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      Mike Roush 4 years ago from Newark, DE

      I understand. The original poll was more designed to gauge Hamlin's response to Petty's comments, not whether the comments themselves were accurate. But I see where you're coming from. I added a second poll (along with a paragraph) to gauge what you're looking at; at the end of the day, who was in the right here?

    • profile image

      Tony Geinzer 4 years ago

      Hamlin is an unwelcome houseguest, because he is lower than the Interleagues.

    • profile image

      MrPandy 4 years ago

      As I mentioned in my comment, I would have liked to see "Kyle is right and Hamlin should just shut up." The first two choices state that Kyle is wrong and the last two express no opinion on his statement. None of them explicitly state that Kyle is right.

    • anotherleftturn profile image
      Author

      Mike Roush 4 years ago from Newark, DE

      MrPandy- thanks for reading! I wouldn't go so far as to say I don't like Kyle Petty- he has his opinions and has a history in the sport to background those opinions. At the same time I think he was wrong in this case. Denny has some problems (detailed in the article) but Brad Keselowski syndrome isn't one of them.

      If the four choices listed don't cover your thoughts on the matter what choice(s) would you like to see added?

    • profile image

      MrPandy 4 years ago

      Headline should read "I Don't like Kyle Petty and Here's Why He's Wrong About Hamlin." Terribly slanted article, even reflected in the poll choices - where is "Kyle is right and Hamlin should just shut up"?

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      Adam 4 years ago

      Kyle Petty and his family have done a tremendous amount for the sport of NASCAR and his opinion in the booth is very honest and most welcome. He tells it how he sees it. He will even tell you he was not the best race car driver out there. But he did win races. Ran a race team. Lost his son in a race car accident. Could have won a championship and built cars out of level cross North Carolina at the famed grounds of petty enterprises. I highly doubt that Denny Hamlin even knows how to run an angle grinder. So I would say kyle petty does know something other than racing.

    • profile image

      oldirtracker 4 years ago

      I have watched Denny Hamlin race since his late model days at southside speedway in Richmond, Va. He has always been a whiney spoiled brat with a monster ego. Kyle may not have been the best race car driver in the world and he admits that. But he is the only racing commentator that tells it like it is without fear or worry about reprisals. He also has given immensely with his time and money to benefit children.

    • profile image

      NascarMomma 4 years ago

      Are you kidding me? I love the fact that Kyle calls it like it is. Kyle is not a moron...or out of touch. He voices what a lot of fans think...and what every other announcer won't touch. I all I can say is "keep it up, Kyle" I love it!

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      Jim 4 years ago

      Kyle calls it like he sees it, like it or not. I have had back pain since my early teens, now I'm 59. Denny doesn't want to see the obvious. In the would of today where everyone is sniffing the Emperor's Throne, its good to see Kyle speaking up.

    • profile image

      NascarJeff 4 years ago

      I think it should have read that Dale Earnhardt Jr is the Kyle Petty of his time. Both carry the name of the famous family and cannot win is the best equipment.

      Denny should just shut up!

    • profile image

      nekked 4 years ago

      So kyle was responsible for the downfall of Petty Motorsports. Maybe you should let yourself think back some and recall the facts of the petty shops shutting down. to falsely try to dump that on kyle shows that you aren't a serious reporter at least not one that is into facts.

      Kyle has always been his own man/boy. Very little did he drive a Petty car. Think Felix and the Wood's. It was Adam that was looked to to carry on the Petty name. You know Adam, the son Kyle lost. That was the second NASCAR death that hit the Petty family pretty hard. That water tank was the first with Linda's brother killed right next to Kyle.

      Then look at all he has done and continues to do today through the Victory Junction Gang camp.

      Then look at the kids he and his wife have raised after being married, something Hamlin hasn't seen fit to do.

      Those of us that have been Petty fans for decades know the story of the Petty's and all the ups and downs. People that don't know any better talk about how the Petty name gave Kyle so much that others didn't have. BU**S**T! Kyle accomplished what he did much more on his own than because of his Daddy. Kyle was, is, and always will be Kyle Petty with all his faults and with a giant love for others in his heart!

      But maybe the haters would be happier with DW or Mikey offering their opinions and analysis. But for me, I'll take Kyles unvarnished thoughts any day. He says what he feels and believes and is pretty sparing with any ass kissing, I'll take that.

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      WVRick 4 years ago

      Kyle Petty is a MORON! He sure never showed anything on track. Dale Jr gets a bad rap for living on his last name? WOW Petty's last name is the ONLY thing that ever got him anywhere. Except being Wally WayInBack's sidekick on TV. Seeya TNT, and glad to see ya go. I think Kyle hates to see some new players getting a chance.

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      dinwv 4 years ago

      ???? I for one LOVE Kyle Petty because he is the only one, and I mean the ONLY one, in the NASCAR media circus who says anything interesting and says it with passion. I agree with Kyle a great deal of the time (including here, Denny is the moron), and even when I don't, Kyle's comments are much more interesting and compelling than the bland vanilla asskissing that comes from all the other talking heads.