NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Was Denny Hamlin’s Move Dirty?

Toward the end of this past Sunday’s First Data 500 from Martinsville Speedway, Denny Hamlin got into the rear of Chase Elliott, sending the No. 24 spinning into the outside wall, ending his shot at a win. This caused a confrontation between the two drivers after the race and much reaction from the NASCAR world.

Was Hamlin’s move on Elliott a dirty one?

Dirty Denny

Denny Hamlin has been in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for a while, going back to 2005. He has amassed his fair share of wins, 31, and gained a ton of respect from a lot of people in NASCAR. But he lost some of that respect on Sunday.

Because what he did to Chase Elliott was dirty. Agree with the move or not, it was, in fact, dirty.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Frankly, I completely understand why Hamlin made the move. It’s a product of this playoff format: win and advance. That move, in his eyes, was the difference between him getting the chance to race for a championship in Miami or not.

Nobody but Hamlin himself knew what was going through his head with three laps to go in the First Data 500. Did he really just want to nudge him out of the way and did he really have no intention of wrecking him?

Come on now, people. Hamlin wrecked Elliott. There ain’t no two ways about it.

The definition of a “dirty move” in stock car racing differs from driver to driver, fan to fan, and official to official. But I think it was dirty because the end result was a wrecked race car.

I think fan reaction was pretty telling. I know Elliott is one of, if not, the most popular drivers in the sport, but Martinsville is also Hamlin’s home track. He’s been cheered with ear-piercing screams before. But not this time.

He was booed relentlessly, while Elliott was cheered for egging on the crowd, waving his hands to make them louder.

There’s a difference between bumping someone out of the way for a win and wrecking someone for a win. It’s clear as day that this was a wreck for the win, that he didn’t even win, by the way.

What Elliott did to Brad Keselowski a few laps prior was a bump and run for the lead. What we see more often that not at short tracks, and sometimes road courses, are bump and runs. We just seem to remember the ones that cause a bit of controversy more than the others.

Austin Cindric on Kaz Grala at Mosport? Dirty. Ironic enough, Elliott on Ty Dillon at Mosport a few years ago? Dirty. Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski? Both have bee dirty towards each other in the past. Hamlin on Elliott at The Paperclip? D.I.R.T.Y. See it, spell it, read it. And those are just the ones that are in recent memory.

I don’t want to hear the “Oh, but Davey, Dale Earnhardt wrecked people for the win all the time and we used to celebrate him then and we still do now! Why aren’t we doing the same with Denny Hamlin?”

It’s rather simple: Denny Hamlin is not Dale Earnhardt, nor will he ever be. Even someone who never saw The Intimidator race and was not old enough to understand how the dude was racing immortality knows that.

I also don’t want to hear the “Well how about what Matt Kenseth did to Joey Logano a few years back at Martinsville? Was that dirty?”

Yes, it sure as heck was. It was also something us as race fans love: payback.

Kenseth had every right, and then some, to wreck Logano. The No. 22 turned the No. 20 a couple weeks prior at Kanas while Kenseth was leading. He took a win away from him there, and Logano’s potential win was taken from him at Martinsville.

Did Kenseth deserve to be suspended? That’s up for debate. But his move was warranted, albeit dirty. Hamlin’s move wasn’t payback. He can tell himself that it was warranted because he wanted an automatic advancement to Miami all he wants, but I ain’t buying it. – Davey Segal

Quit Hating Hamlin

It is the unpopular opinion, but I refuse to label Denny Hamlin as a dirty driver after he knocked Chase Elliott out of the way at the end of Martinsville. Simply stated, what he did to Elliott was not dirty.

Hamlin has been in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series full time since 2006. As someone from the Richmond, Va. Area, I somewhat got to watch him come up through the ranks and have been to his charity races he used to have in the area (and hopefully will start having again soon).

While there is no way that Hamlin has driven in 10,000 races, as he said on Twitter, he has raced a couple thousand and I have never seen him intentionally wreck anyone. He races hard, as all good drivers do, and that is exactly what he was doing when he hit Elliott.

It is hard to believe that Hamlin meant to wreck Elliott. He absolutely meant to bump Elliott; if you are in second place and don’t try to bump the leader out of the way at the end of Martinsville, then you don’t belong in NASCAR. What likely happened is that Hamlin tried to move Elliott up the track and just drove the car in a little deeper than he intended.

No one truly knows what happened in that situation other than Hamlin.

If Hamlin was trying to spin Elliott, then that should not be considered dirty either.

Everyone seems to be forgetting that one lap earlier, Elliott used up Brad Keselowski to take the lead. If Keselowski was not an extremely talented driver, then he could have wrecked right there too.

Elliott’s move made Keselowski mad enough that when I asked Keselowski after the race if he planned on talking to Elliott, he said, “I don’t need any bulls–t.”

Drivers race the way they want others to race them. If I am Hamlin watching this play out, then as soon as I see Elliott use up Keselowski, it tells me that I can race Elliott just as aggressively as he is racing others.

Here’s the ultimate question: would people have reacted with the same outrage had Keselowski wrecked as a result of Elliott’s move?

The answer to that is no. People are only furious at Hamlin because Elliott is roundly popular and most want to see him pick up his overdue first win.

Elliott was robbed of that win by Hamlin and he had every right to be mad. But isn’t that why we watch racing—to have a winner and a loser?

We want these drivers to give 110 percent to try to win these races, yet we get furious when they actually do that. If you truly want to win a race more than anything else then you will do anything it takes to win, including spinning out your competitors.

Elliott has every right to return the favor to Hamlin if they are racing for a win in the future. In fact, I will be disappointed if Elliott does not dump Hamlin for a win.

The key is the driver must be going for a win for it to not be dirty.

If you are wrecking people while not going for the win, then that is dirty driving.

When Jeff Gordon returned to the track to wreck Clint Bowyer at Phoenix International Raceway in 2012 and cost Bowyer the championship; that was dirty driving. When Matt Kenseth wrecked Joey Logano at Martinsville in 2015, it was dirty driving.

If those two avoided being labeled a dirty driver, then Hamlin definitely should.

The bottom line is that moves like Hamlin made used to happen all of the time back in the day. People look back with fondness for Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough for driving like that. In recent years, the cars have become too aerodynamically dependent for that style of racing so we are not used to seeing it on a regular basis.

This is stock car racing. It should be defined by beating and banging. The day that ends will be the day I consider NASCAR to be just as boring as Formula One. – Michael Massie

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11 Comments
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Bill B

What a stupid debate. Denny himself said it was dirty driving. What’s to debate?
I wish I had the last 5 minutes of my life back.

jim

Yes it was dirty …he has been around long enough

kb

I am asking this in CAPS because I find the future narrative that is staring this week, TOTAL BS! And pretty telling the faux BS NASCAR and HMS and the MEDIA will now “officially” bow to ANYTHING CHASE RELATED, opps in reality his daddy BILL! Chase needs to make the choice if it is HE who wants the fans to see, or his DADDY. For the love of Mary his car number next year is his fathers! Tells you something is wrong! And totally manipulation to the fanatics of Million Dollar Bill. The exact same BS as DALE Sr. AND Jr. Most fans are sick of it, but NASCAR has not a clue. Watch, wait learn. CLYDE, ahhhhhhhh…we should all be sol blessed.

“I think fan reaction was pretty telling. I know Elliott is one of, if not, the most popular drivers in the sport, but Martinsville is also Hamlin’s home track. He’s been cheered with ear-piercing screams before. But not this time.”

I GOTTA SAY ON THIS QUOTE OF CLYDE THIS YEAR AND IN THE PAST BEING ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR..WHAT SET UP WAS YOUR TV HOOKED UP TOO? AND WHAT MEDIA DID YOU GET THAT FROM? TOTAL BULLSHIT. TRULY! CLYDE when the name of his PAPPY is pushed to the death at any event, they are NOT CHEERING LITTLE CYLDE.

SmarterThanYou

Chill out, crazy lady. Chase Elliott’s fan base is a lot wider than you believe, including young girls who think he’s cute, Jeff Gordon fans, Dale Jr. fans, and the remnant of William Clyde Elliott’s fans, who are mostly collecting Social Security, not jumping the fence at Martinsville. And WCE I was never a media darling. His fan base developed from grassroots fans who liked his clean style of racing and his small town roots. Accept reality: today’s fans are cheering for Chase, not just his daddy.

Bill H

Lets start a new form of racing for those who approve of Denny’s action. Whenever you catch up with another car, you don’t pass him, you just wreck him. Last car still running wins the race.

DoninAjax

Sounds like a demo derby, Brian’s favorite form of racing. He gets his wish at Talladega, Daytona, Martinsville, and Old Bristol (the new product there sucks).

Keith

If he bumped him then it was not dirty but he did not bump him he drove Chase all the way into the corner so yes it was dirty. The front and rear of the cars are called bumpers not push bars.

Lin Hunnicutt

I guess we have all forgotten Chase Elliott did the very same thing to Ty Dillon four years ago and nobody cried foul then.

Tony

Hendrick Hero. Automatically exempt from all criticism.

Steve Cosentino

So the fact that Chase was blocking a faster car is ok? Maybe…just maybe the lack of experience is why Chase ended up in the wall and not because of the 11. How many wins does Denny Hamlin have at Martinsville? How many wins does Chase have in total? Something to think about.

salb

Apparently Denny doesn’t have the skill set to ‘BUMP and run’ rather than DUMP and run’ after all these years of experience. Too bad he couldn’t find his brake pedal if e slowed down so much. This ridiculous ‘playoff’ format seems to have encouraged ‘dirty’ driving, because you can almost virtually eliminate competition if you put them out of the race, can’t you? Hard to recover from that in just 2 races.

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