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Fans should be realistic about Denny Hamlin’s Daytona 500 win celebration

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 17: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Usually, the Daytona 500 winner is the recipient of much fanfare. But unfortunately for Denny Hamlin, the 2020 Daytona 500 victor, most attention, and rightfully so, after this year’s installment of NASCAR’s biggest race was on Ryan Newman and his wellbeing after his last-lap crash. Fortunately, Newman, although listed in serious condition at Fairfax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., last Monday after the race, was well enough to be released from the hospital fewer than 48 hours later. Meanwhile, Hamlin has been harshly criticized by a portion of the NASCAR fanbase for, at least somewhat, celebrating his Daytona 500 win.

Those those fans, I say, “Cut Hamlin some slack!”

Hamlin was alerted of the seriousness of Newman’s condition in victory lane. Then, his celebration was more subdued, and he showed what I choose to believe was sincere concern for his fellow-competitor.

The criticism has been aimed at Hamlin doing a celebratory burnout after his win, with those critics claiming Hamlin surely was aware of the severity of Newman’s potential injuries. Really?!? As Newman was wrecking, along with several other cars, Hamlin was driving on to the start/finish line and the checkered flag, as he should’ve been. Hamlin was far out ahead of the wreck by the time Newman’s overturned car was hit by Corey LaJoie’s car in the driver-side window. That contact is what caused Newman’s injury. How could Hamlin have seen that? Answer: he couldn’t.

Critics point at Hamlin, surely, seeing Newman’s wrecked car when Hamlin was celebrating with a burnout. Sure, but how could he have known the severity of Newman’s wreck. After all, as Hamlin pointed out during at least one of his Daytona 500 winner’s media tour Tuesday, Hamlin talked of big last-lap crashes, including cars overturning, being commonplace on the final lap of superspeedway races. And often in those wrecks, drivers usually climb out and walk away, uninjured, these days. How was Hamlin supposed to know this time around was different? He couldn’t have known that.

Critics also have further blamed Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team for not alerting Hamlin of the situation as soon as the race over. How? Hamlin had already disconnected his radio communication. Or at least he said he had, and I don’t have any reason to not believe that. Again, Hamlin was alerted upon getting into victory lane, and at that point, he showed concern for Newman.

Team owner Joe Gibbs apologized for the celebration — an apology that, quite frankly, wasn’t even necessary, and there’s a part of me that’s appalled if he felt he had to. Whether or not Coach Gibbs felt he was backed into a corner and an apology was necessary, it was a classy move, if you ask me.

I’ll say it again; “Cut Hamlin some slack.” Claims that Hamlin should’ve known of the severity of Newman’s condition as soon as the race was over, or even moments before, are unreasonable and downright ridiculous. Get real, people!

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Posted by on February 22, 2020. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.