Sometimes, Winning Isn’t Everything

Charlotte, NC (February 14, 2011) – Denny Hamlin took the low groove to the high road Saturday night in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.

Hamlin’s daring inside pass of Ryan Newman on the final lap of the event pushed his Toyota below the dreaded Daytona double yellow out of bounds line. Instead of winning the race, Hamlin was penalized and officially credited with 12th place – the final car on the lead lap.

“The yellow line is there to protect us and the fans in the stands safety and I just chose to take the safer route,” Hamlin stated after the race. “A win in the Shootout is not worth sending the No. 39 (Newman) through the grandstands.”

Sometimes, winning isn’t everything.

Some garage and media cynics immediately labeled Hamlin’s actions as self-serving saying it was just a way for him to cover up his blunder. After all, everyone knows there is no passing under the double yellow line at any time during a NASCAR race at Daytona. To them, Hamlin made his move, screwed up, and now was covering his tracks so to speak.

To us, Hamlin showed great restraint. Faced with a split-second decision, he acted in a manner that resulted in a clean finish, no loss of equipment and no injuries. Had he chosen to bull his way into Newman to win the race, Newman car – along with those of Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray – would have almost assuredly crashed into the main straight wall at over 200 miles per hour.

Replays of the finish indicate Hamlin may not have had to go under the yellow lines to make the pass for the win. A closer look indicates that Daytona International Speedway security personnel had completely failed to keep hundreds of fans away from pressing up against the fence at the start-finish line.

Any kind of crash – and the flying debris it would have produced – would have certainly injured several spectators. A prize of $200,000, or any amount for that matter, isn’t worth that. We salute Hamlin for his desire to win and his common sense to know when the cost is greater than the reward.

We also would like to admonish NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway for its total lack of crowd control along the fence line. They obviously need to start enforcing the ‘double yellow line rule’ on the grandstand side of the fence because next time, they might not have Hamlin doing their thinking for them.

Now What?

It didn’t take NASCAR long to try to curb the high speeds of Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout Sprint Cup event at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR officials announced Sunday it will reduce the size of the area teams can leave open on the front of the cars. The now two and one-half inch high by 20 inch wide opening will permit less air to the engine compartment. Teams will also be required install a pressure release valve to keep water temperatures lower – in the 260 degree range – throughout the race.

The changes are expected to curtail the multi-lap, two-car drafting maneuvers that produced speeds in excess of 206 miles per hour Saturday evening. Additionally, drivers will have to pull out of line more often to keep their engines from overheating.

Now, the question is will the changes work?

NASCAR has been wary of the 200 miles per hour mark ever since Bobby Allison flew his Buick into the crowd at Talladega in 1987. Since then, the sanctioning body has employed carburetor restrictor plates to curtail horsepower and highs speeds at both Daytona and Talladega. This year, a new Sprint Cup front nose aero package and a fresh ribbon of asphalt at Daytona have again pushed the speeds in the draft in excess of 200 big ones.

Whoa, Nellie.

Personally, we thought Saturday’s racing at Daytona was some of the most exciting we have ever seen there. It was amazing to see the cars hooked nose to tail all the way around the track and the ‘slingshot’ moves made were even more impressive than those we remember from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

That said, we’re not sure that will be the result of the new rules. In fact, nobody – not even NASCAR – knows what the new changes will bring until Wednesday, the first time the Cup cars will be back on the track at Daytona this week.

Should be interesting.

Last Call

Legendary Indianapolis 500 track announcer Tom Carnegie passed away late last week in health care facility in Indiana. He was 91.

Anyone who ever visited Indy for the 500 and later, the Brickyard 400, was spellbound by Carnegie’s deep, booming baritone voice. From 1946 through 2007, Carnegie’s calls rang out over the vast speedway grounds.

It was our privilege and honor to meet Mr. Carnegie when we worked the 500 in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Always a gentleman, Carnegie will be missed but will live on in the hearts and minds to the countless millions who were treated to his calls of “he’s on it” or “it’s a new track record.”

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