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NASCAR correct in hands-off approach to Denny Hamlin-Chase Elliott incident

To say the finish of Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, the first race of the Round of Eight of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, was controversial would be a gross understatement. And that controversy isn’t the result of the last lap crash that involved most of the race field, either. Instead, the controversy came courtesy of Denny Hamlin, who, to put it bluntly, punted then-leader Chase Elliott, sending the race into overtime.

Later Sunday evening, Hamlin issued an apology on social media.

Frankly, I’m not getting some of the comments and opinions surrounding the controversy. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not criticizing the differing opinions. Everyone has a right to theirs, and in this country, we have a right to express those, so here are a few of mine relating to what went down Sunday evening at Martinsville.

I kind of, but not completely, get placing the blame on the playoff format. Sure, maybe the win and you’re in, elimination-style format creates more pressure and drama, maybe increasing the likelihood of what we saw from Hamlin on Sunday. But can we completely blame it on the playoff format? I don’t think so. After all, this kind of thing was going on before the playoff format. Heck, we saw this kind of stuff before any chase format. What was the reason, then? In both cases, playoff format and pre-playoff, drivers — some more than others — were pulling this kind of stunt in going for race wins. After all, drivers wanted to win races, even before the playoff format.

Then, I’ve heard criticism of the younger generation of racers. Let’s be honest, here. This younger generation wasn’t even born back when this kind of thing first started.

That being said, did Hamlin do anything wrong? Yes and no. Okay, I’m kind of wishy-washy on this one. This one kind of depends on which side of the fence you’re on — always racing the fellow-competitor clean and that “I’d wreck my grandma to win a race” mentality.

Should Hamlin have been penalized by NASCAR? A resounding no. I think this falls under the “boys” have at it criteria, leaving Chase Elliott to decide what he’s going to do about it — retaliate or not. For those calling for the penalty, citing the Joey Logano/Matt Kenseth soap opera from two years ago, this is a different situation altogether.

Hamlin was racing for a win at Martinsvile Sunday. Kenseth at Martinsville in 2015? Not so much. Logano then, like Elliott on Sunday, was leading the race, but that fact, along with the locale are pretty much the only similarities. In 2015, Kenseth wasn’t racing for the win. He was several laps down and returned to the track in a wrecked car, pretty much for the sole purposes of running down Logano and wrecking him.

That being said, Elliott’s future move of retaliation or not will probably be scrutinized, especially if he does retaliate. If retaliation winds up being in the cards, possible penalties would depend on the form and situation of said retaliation. If he makes his retaliation as obvious as Kenseth did in 2015, definitely, a penalty would be in order. Elliott needs to be sly about it.

Heck, maybe the best revenge is doing nothing; leave Hamlin wondering when it’s coming. Besides, Elliott has a championship for which to race. The focus the next couple of weeks should be advancing to Homestead. Maybe if Elliott wins at Texas, and therefore, had nothing to lose the following week at Phoenix? Or maybe if he doesn’t win either of those races and can’t advance to Homestead via points and Hamlin does, pulling off something in the finale, especially if Hamlin is among the Championship Four? Again, in that case, Elliott needs to be very sly. After all, remember Kyle Busch being parked  a few years ago for interfering with Ron Hornaday’s Camping World Truck Series championship efforts?

What about making Hamlin wait until next season. I’m guessing you’ve heard that saying, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” That could apply hear.

This possible payback talks brings me to Hamlin’s public apology. Was it necessary? I sure think an apology was, definitely, in Hamlin’s best interest. Let’s revisit the Logano-Kenseth debacle, yet again. Judging by some of Kenseth’s comments back then, what irked him the most was Logano’s post-incident attitude about it — his lack of remorse, if you will. Maybe Hamlin’s apology Sunday night calmed the waters a bit, so to speak, decreasing the likelihood and possible severity of payback.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer).

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Posted by on November 1, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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