Why I Love NASCAR: Denny Hamlin

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
There are some drivers you just don’t ever warm up to and there are some you never thought you could like and begin liking them despite yourself. I try consistently to have something positive and kind to say about the forty-three drivers who run the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit weekly. When I find I do not like somebody there isn’t always a reason. On the rare occasion I find a driver I didn’t particularly like is becoming someone I don’t mind so much, that is a story. Denny Hamlin fits this category for me.

It stood to reason that I should really have liked Denny Hamlin from the get go simply because he is from Virginia and I had lived there for five years and began my love affair with NASCAR in the state that is for lovers. But, quite frankly, I didn’t. At first I based my opinions on those of others. He was explained to me as a snot; as a rule, I don’t like snots. Others who spent time in the pits or at driver personal appearances said he was less than gracious. Looking back, I have no first-hand knowledge of this behavior so I don’t want to perpetuate the rumors. Trying to be fair and open-minded, I gave Denny Hamlin a chance in 2010.

As the 2010 season was set to begin, fans learned that Denny Hamlin damaged his ACL playing basketball. Initially surgery to repair was slated to occur after the season wrapped, but it was later determined that it needed to be fixed long before the end of the year. That spring, two days before the surgery that would fix his ACL, Denny won the Martinsville race. Less than a month later, a few weeks post-op, Denny stunned the NASCAR community and his fans with another win at Texas Motor Speedway. He looked poised to make the Chase and determined to dethrone the then four-time consecutive Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. More wins followed in May at Darlington, two back to back in June at Pocono and Michigan, and finished the season with wins in September, October, and November at Richmond, Martinsville, and Texas respectively. And, with all of these fantastic wins, Denny finished second in points behind five-time winner Jimmie Johnson. I was saddened for Denny Hamlin who truly seemed disheartened by missing the Sprint Cup.

I felt a kinship to Denny Hamlin because in 2010 my husband underwent ACL surgery. We were incredulous at how painful the procedure and recovery was for him as my husband is a fit and strong man who has a rather high tolerance for pain. Once he knew first-hand what Denny Hamlin endured his respect grew tenfold for the man, as did mine. In addition, on top of the grueling recovery and rehabilitation, Denny Hamlin won a total of eight races and came in second in points for the season. This proved to us that Denny Hamlin deserves to be in the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, he was worthy of our respect, and he was a bit of a super human for driving in extreme conditions before and after the ACL surgery sans medication!

Denny Hamlin was less than stellar in 2011. Although he captured a win at Michigan in June and earned a wild-card spot in the Chase, Denny Hamlin’s season has been lackluster at best. Regardless, I’m glad to see him in the Chase and thrilled to know that he will continue to be a threat at the Sprint Cup level. Having Denny Hamlin out there is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.

Chief 187 is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187 Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com

Why I Love NASCAR: Denny Hamlin Why I Love NASCAR: Denny Hamlin Reviewed by Chief 187 on Monday, October 17, 2011 Rating: 5