Opinion: Big Picture Time for Hamlin

Denny Hamlin

After his 30th-place finish last Sunday in Michigan, Hamlin is 26th in the Sprint Cup standings and 85 points out of 20th place, where he needs to be inside to even be eligible for a Wild Card.

Denny Hamlin’s quest to make the Chase after missing four starts was at best a long shot of epic proportions. Now with only 11 races left in the regular season it’s impossible.

Not even if Doug Flutie replaced Darian Grubb as crew chief could Hamlin complete as many Hail Mary’s he’ll need to make the playoffs.

After his 30th-place finish last Sunday in Michigan, Hamlin is 26th in the Sprint Cup standings and 85 points out of 20th place, where he needs to be inside to even be eligible for a Wild Card.

Oh and there’s also that pesky little goose egg in the win column next to Hamlin’s name leaving him one and more than likely two victories behind any current Wild Card candidates.

Eternal optimists insist despite being nearly two races behind in points to 20th Hamlin can still leap frog over the likes of Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch, all who by the way are trying desperately to punch their tickets to the Chase.

Those same positive thinkers point to tracks in the next part of the schedule where Hamlin runs well and has won before, such as New Hampshire, Atlanta and Richmond. However that same logic didn’t work out so well in recent weeks when Hamlin struggled at previous playgrounds like Pocono and Michigan.

You have to hand it to Hamlin for continuing to fight the fight and not wave the white flag until he is mathematically out of the championship picture. He is by definition a racer and climbing out from behind the wheel is no doubt a difficult proposition.

But how long will it take for that myopic view to be replaced by bigger picture thinking for both Hamlin’s health in addition to the well being of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Although Hamlin seems healthy, his back issues remain a challenge. Only a few weeks ago he admitted to “going numb” during a practice session at Charlotte Motor Speedway. While I’m not a doctor nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, surgery to repair Hamlin’s ailing back appears inevitable.

While obviously the recovery period for every patient differs, Hamlin faces a rather lengthy time recuperating if he does opt to go under the knife. For example New York Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis is expected to be out up to 12 weeks from his back surgery. Hamlin owes it to himself to ensure his physical well-being for years to come and allow as much time as needed to come back strong and healthy. Why not get a jump start on 2014 as soon as possible?

There is also the question of when JGR turns the No. 11 Toyota into a guinea pig for its other two teams more than likely headed to the Chase with Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. Data acquisition and research has proven to be invaluable in today’s Sprint Cup championship world and the Gibbs stable has a built-in asset with the FedEx Camry.

It’s no doubt going to be a painful pill for Hamlin to swallow once he comes to grips with the cold hard fact his dream of a 2013 title is gone.

But for the greater good, Hamlin should start his preparation for next season.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Denny Hamlin

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