By admin | August 22, 2011
By Richard Allen
*Note: The following piece includes somewhat unsavory language used during in-race communications over team radios. The words have been somewhat censored but the words in question are still quite obvious.
To say that Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin is frustrated with how his season is going so far in 2011 would be a gross understatement. And that frustration became more apparent than ever leading up to and during Sunday’s Michigan Pure 400.
Early in the week, Hamlin had supposedly stated that he wanted his in house built JGR engines replaced by those supplied from Toyota Racing Development in California. The Gibbs organization had just recently announced that they would make that change next season after suffering at least nine failures already this season.
But Hamlin’s pre-race demonstration of a lack of confidence was not the only indication of frustration with his team. During the running of the race itself, Hamlin began to fade through the field with apparent handling issues. Eventually, his #11 Toyota brushed the wall causing damage.
At 14th, this is the lowest in the Sprint Cup standings Hamlin has ever been in his career at this point in the season. Last year he won eight races and finished runner-up to champion Jimmie Johnson.
After the brush with the wall on Sunday, the driver and crew chief Mike Ford engaged in an aggravated exchange. “We’re done,” Hamlin proclaimed as he brought the car to pit road for repairs. Ford attempted to assure his driver that all was not lost and instructed the crew as they prepared to tend to the car.
After going back on the track Hamlin did not like the feel his car gave him. “Get a right front shock ready,” Hamlin told his team. “It’s falling down in the right front. Probably bent a shock.”
Without waiting for instructions, Hamlin headed back down pit road. Ford then told his driver that if the car felt that bad he should go ahead and take it to the garage for more extensive repairs. “I ain’t taking it to the garage,” said Hamlin. “Fix the f**king car.”
After further work on pit road, Hamlin radioed back that the car felt no better. “Take it to the f**king garage like I said,” Ford then demanded of Hamlin.
The Gibbs crew took the car to the garage area for several minutes to complete their damage control. Ultimately, Hamlin finished in the 35th position, fifteen laps behind his teammate, and eventual winner, Kyle Busch.
Clearly, the frustration level on the #11 team has reached a level that could very well jeopardize their performance for the rest of the year. This comes at a terrible time of the season as Hamlin struggles to hold onto a wildcard spot for the Chase for the Championship standings.
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