Opinion: Hamlin Needs to Focus

Denny Hamlin
In the span of a little more than a week Denny Hamlin has gone from a folk hero to public enemy number one in a lot of fans’ eyes.

When NASCAR decided to fine Hamlin for his post Phoenix comments, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver received an outpouring of support from a majority of the sport’s huge fan base. The sanctioning body’s overly sensitive stance on the Gen-6 Sprint Cup Series machine resulted in a $25,000 fine for Hamlin simply giving his opinion on how the car drove in his charge from 43rd to third at PIR.

Hamlin’s original decree of fighting the sanction and taking it to an appeal committee was seen as the ultimate fight against “the man” and the perception that NASCAR had gone too far in trying to ensure drivers only speak in positive terms about the new Cup car.

But then after a few days, Hamlin had a change of heart. He would no longer appeal the sanction, still believing he had done nothing wrong but felt it a better decision to not pursue any further action.

It’s not the first time Hamlin took back some rather bold words in recent months. Remember his “guarantee” that he would win last September’s New Hampshire race after starting the Chase off with a disappointing effort at Chicagoland Speedway? He backed off that statement as the week went by, only to conveniently return to the prediction when he indeed did take the checkered flag in Loudon.

That situation has some similarity to Hamlin’s latest conundrum. While seeing “no point” in furthering his fight against the NASCAR penalty as reason to drop the appeal, Hamlin in the same breath said he wouldn’t pay the fine – thereby continuing to perpetuate the story he’d hoped would be put behind.

For the record, I was in Hamlin’s corner and felt NASCAR did overreact – a moot point now nearly two weeks removed.

The new view and mixed message turned some fans against Hamlin, who were also on his side until the flip-flop.

And Hamlin didn’t win over any fans of Joey Logano this past weekend in Bristol, when he made contact with the Penske Racing driver in a move that seemed to be more on the intentional side then simply a racing incident.

That scuffle boiled over to a war of words that started in person but then transferred over to Twitter, as Hamlin and Logano exchanged pleasantries via social media as they did after a disagreement in Daytona last month.

So it’s been an eventful start to the year for Hamlin, who was a pre-season pick by some to win the championship. But while he’s been in the headlines since the year began, it hasn’t been for the right reasons.

Hamlin has one top 10 finish in the campaign’s first four races, not a terrible start by any means. However trying to perform at the level needed in the Sprint Cup Series while dealing with any outside distractions is a near impossible task.

Hamlin has to find a way to put the shenanigans on the back burner and concentrate on the matter at hand. He’s with a potent team and is a talented driver very capable of rattling off multiple victories while challenging for the 2013 crown.

Now’s the time for Hamlin to have folks talking about his performance behind the wheel.

The sideshow needs to end and the focus has to return to the main stage.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Denny Hamlin

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