By admin | October 31, 2010
By Richard Allen
Denny Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing team proved on Sunday in the Amp Energy Juice 500 at the Talladega Super Speedway that racers are better off when they race rather than think.
As is often the case, there are two distinct ways of going about restrictor plate racing such as that to take place in Daytona and Talladega. Some prefer to run as close to the front of the pack as possible in hopes of being ahead of any trouble that might occur while others prefer running near the back of the pack to stay out of said trouble.
Hamlin and his team, who came into the race trailing four time defending champion Jimmie Johnson by only six points in the Chase for the Championship standings, chose to hang out near the tail of the field during the early stretches of the event. However, that strategy almost proved detrimental as Hamlin’s Toyota fell so far back that he lost the draft from the leading cars and was caught from behind and lapped.
To borrow from the most useless statistical information in all of sports, if the race had ended there, he would have lost considerable ground in the standings and all but eliminated himself with only three races remaining in 2010.
But good fortune ultimately saved the JGR #11 bunch from themselves as Hamlin got back to the lead lap by way of a Lucky Dog award. After being returned to the lead pack, he then raced along with the rest of the field. He even found his way to the lead and picked up five bonus points for the trouble.
Eventually Hamlin raced his way to a 9th place finish. His closest rivals in the Chase, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, were 2nd and 7th respectively. Johnson leads the standings by 14 points over Hamlin and 38 points over Harvick.
All in all, Hamlin’s plan did not come together quite the way he would have wanted it to but he still had more treats than tricks in his Halloween bag at the end of the day in spite of his own strategy.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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