March 4th, 2015
One year ago it was the finish that got everyone talking about at the Auto Club Speedway. Kyle Busch took victory, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart exchanged shoves, and Denny Hamlin lay in a heap. Logano and Hamlin were battling for the win when contact sent Hamlin into the inside wall, he sustained a broke back because of the wreck.
Flash forward one year late and ironically the haulers of Logano and Hamlin are parked side by side, but when pressed by the media at the track on Friday, Hamlin wasn’t having it. He kept his focus on going forward and not dwelling on what happened last year.
“It was a bad weekend (last year) for sure and obviously affected the rest of our season and beyond. It’s just you have to move on and you have to deal with the adversity and be stronger from it. That’s what I’m trying to do,” commented Hamlin.
He took the high road when pressed about Logano’s hauler being next to his. “I expected it — we’re close in points. Really for us, it really doesn’t matter too much. It really doesn’t change anything. I spoke the same amount of words to Joey (Logano) as my teammate Matt (Kenseth) and he’s on the other side of me. It really doesn’t matter. You’re so focused on what you have to do to get better. It really is just a year,” Hamlin explained.
Despite his injury, which sidelined him for a few months and derailed the momentum his Joe Gibbs Racing team had coming into the 2013, don’t look to Hamlin to tell NASCAR where SAFER barriers should be placed. That said the answer isn’t where a SAFER barrier should be place, it’s that those barriers should be everywhere.
“I really don’t think we should have to (tell NASCAR about safety improvements). Common sense should come into play on some of the race tracks. We can hit inside walls at anywhere and we hit inside walls sometimes harder than we hit outside walls. For an outside organization to say you don’t need it at this place because of odds or statistics, you’re not going to hit here or it’s a less dangerous spot is ridiculous. Anywhere that we have a concrete wall should be covered by SAFER barrier. There’s a lot of race tracks where you look at the map from the sky and my particular team has highlighted where there is no SAFER barrier at a lot of mile-and-a-halfs. Eighty percent of the inside walls are not covered at all. Even though this is a small section that they have here at this track, it’s not just about this one. It’s about many, many other mile-and-a-halfs — they have to improve on getting SAFER barriers where they should be. It could save someone one day. It should be at the highest priority,” Hamlin told the crowd.
Don’t expect retaliation from Hamlin if the opportunity presents itself. He would rather worry about getting the job done, getting a win, and getting into the Chase.
“When you’re on the track, it’s hard enough to pass in these cars, so you have to concentrate in these cars at all times about what you’re going to do to run the best lap you can and not, ‘Hey I need to get to this guy or that guy to retaliate.’ It’s just a different mindset now. It’s not like it used to be in the ’90s and ’80s and things like that when we saw these spats. It’s a different kind of racing,” commented Hamlin.
The Auto Club 400 gets underway at 3 PM EST and can be seen Sunday on FOX.