Published on May 5th, 2008 | by Michael J Smith2
In The Earnhardt-Busch Incident, Hamlin Is To Blame
A night that saw Denny Hamlin dominating a race at his home track, suddenly turned from certain victory into a hard-to-swallow defeat with 17 laps to go. Hamlin felt his right front tire going down and began to slow. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch, who seemed to have decided to battle it out for second, now had a chance to win.
Jr. made a daring three-wide pass with 17 laps to go to take the lead. While he did not have the strongest car of the night, when he got out front, it looked like the No. 88 National Guard/Amp Chevy came alive. He began pulling away from Busch, as Hamlin lost positions with every lap.
Then, with nine laps to go, Hamlin’s tire gave way in Turn 3. He stopped in Turn 4, bringing out the caution. Once the flag was waved, he continued on his way. As I watched this live, I thought nothing of it. How many times have you seen a driver continue on a tire that may be going down in the closing laps, praying that it holds until the finish?
For that, I wouldn’t blame him for driving it until it blew. After all, points are everything when it comes to making the Chase and winning the championship. But, something about this particular incident seemed foul. Something about this wasn’t just a driver trying to get all the points he can. It didn’t sit well.
Consider that his teammate was running second. Did Hamlin bring out the caution to give Busch a chance? You could argue both sides and still come up with no answer to that question. But in this blogger’s opinion, I would say it is at the very least suspect.
Sure, Hamlin could have brought out the caution in hopes of not losing too much time on pit road, changing the tire. But, regardless, he caused the caution that brought Busch back into contention. He is the reason Busch was on the inside when the two touched in Turn 3. No caution, and Busch may not have been there.
If that doesn’t happen, Jr. keeps pulling away from Busch and wins the race. Yeah, maybe he blows a tire with one to go. Maybe he get’s loose and hits the wall on the final lap. Maybe he blows a motor coming out of Turn 3. Or, maybe, just maybe, he wins his first race for Hendrick Motorsports.
There were a lot of scenarios that were never given the chance to play out because the No. 11 FedEx Toyota stopped in Turn 4. On the surface, though, it is just points racing. But, once that flag waved, Hamlin took off, indicating that he did not need to stop. I’d be interested to know the reason.
But, regardless of what I think, only the facts matter:
Busch and Jr. got together ending Jr.’s hopes of that first win.
NASCAR parked Hamlin for two laps for bringing out the caution.
And, Clint Bowyer’s name goes in the record books as the winner of the Crown Royal Presents The Dan Lowry 400.