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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Keselowski playing it cool, while Hamlin plays the fool

The way Denny Hamlin is acting, you would think Brad Keselowski slapped his mother in the face or killed his kittens.

Hamlin, who for some reason has a giant concrete block on his shoulder when it comes to Brad, made good on his promise to turn Keselowski in Saturday’s Nationwide race at Homestead, and after the race he seemed happier than if he had won the race.

While I think Denny Hamlin is continuing to act like a child and holding onto a completely uncalled-for amount of animosity (more on that further down), there’s one other thing that’s come out of all this: NASCAR finally has a legitimate rivalry, something that is pretty much nonexistent in the “kumbaya” atmosphere of today’s NASCAR garage

Based on the comments to media after the race, it’s obvious these two guys think very little of each other. That makes for great drama and great competition, something sorely missing from NASCAR lately.

Every time Hamlin got close to Keselowski early in the race, it added needed drama to the race. Fans were on the edge of their seat, wondering what was going to happen. It was like the old days when Ernie Irvan made a long list of enemies and fans wondered what they would do to him on the track on raceday.

Without the rivalry, this would have been a decent season finale for the Nationwide series. With the rivalry, it was awesome. Honestly, I hope they never kiss and make up, as they’ll be racing each other at least once each weekend for many years to come. (Including today in the Cup race.)

The irony of it all: Hamlin was driving Saturday for CJM Racing in a car sponsored by the Web site … I thought wrath was a sin, Denny.

Different attitudes

This is a great rivalry for the sport, but I am also interested in the whole thing from a psychological perspective. When looking at how both sides are reacting to this rivalry and the incidents it has created, it is clear that one side is enjoying the fun involved with it, while the other is losing sleep.

The driver enjoying this battle of wits and racecars is Keselowski. Take, for example, this radio exchange between him and crew chief Tony Eury Sr. immediately after he was spun by Hamlin.
Pops: “That boy will never learn. He didn’t do it good enough.”
Brad K: “That was fun”
(FYI: Brad not only saved his car after being hit by Hamlin; he also drove on to a 12th place finish despite the incident. Not too shabby.)

Then there were Brad’s comments after the race, in which he not-so-subtly hinted that Hamlin needed to get over it and stop whining so much.
“I kind of laughed in the car. I though it was a little funny. I don’t really hold any grudges and I’m ready to move on. Hell, I’ve already moved on. Hopefully, he feels the same way. I have a feeling when he wakes up in the morning he’s not going to feel any better about himself. He’s got a lot of problems, on and off the racetrack, and I don’t think spinning me is going to make him happy.”

That’s the best way to deal with this type of situation. Brad even went the gentleman route and said he has moved on and wouldn’t plan on any future retaliation against Hamlin in reaction to Saturday’s spinout. It’s like when there is a big fight, and you start to speak in a calm manner, the person yelling at you will become more mad because you’re not yelling back.

In this battle, Hamlin is the yeller. He is the one whining and crying every week about how terrible Keselowski has treated him. Riddle me this then, Denny. If he’s so bad, how come he’s never wrecked when you hit him, but you always wreck when he hits you?

In stark contrast to Brad’s comments, here’s what Denny had to say after the race, in which he finished 5th.
“I feel great right now. It was all worth it,” he said, simply giddy about the spinout. “The fact is I wasn’t going to give him an inch … We’ll never be even.”

Hamlin went on to talk about how he believes he is inside Keselowski’s head now.
“It’s going to be other times when we’ll be racing. He’s still going to think about it when I’m in his rearview mirror,” Hamlin said, before once again going on a rant about how Brad has wrecked him so much that he will always be owed payback.

Earth to Denny Hamlin: Get over yourself. Keselowski is not afraid of you. In fact, he’s laughing at you, and that’s making you more and more mad.

And while Hamlin keeps referring to this laundry list of teams that were happy when he wrecked Keselowski, I’m having a hard time coming up with many teams who would be on that list. Brad hadn’t been known as an overly aggressive driver or disliked around the garage, so I’m not sure where Hamlin’s getting his members of this alleged anti-Keselowski club.

Regardless of what Hamlin might think, he’s the one who is letting this rivalry drive him nuts, while Keselowski is just enjoying the ride and laughing at how this allegedly veteran driver can’t handle a little competition. It’s truly bizarre to watch Hamlin’s obsession with Keselowski grow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You just don't get it Matt! Maybe, just maybe, the media had their part in making this a bunch more serious than it needs to be. Denny handled it the way racers have always handled it. No one got hurt, the crews didn't lose a car. Right or wrong just enjoy the extra excitement it added and let the drivers work it out. Neither one is close to being called a gentleman driver , but, then again, Ned was and had little problem with payback. You type and let them drive.

November 22, 2009 at 9:30 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in any racing circut I have been a part ov, and there have been many, if a driver spent the week stating that he was going to wreck some other the driver the next week and then goes out and does it it and brags about it -you would be in deep s--t with the officials and most suridly be suspended foe a time and fined. Nascar really dropped the ball AGAIN. I can't beleive junior not daying anything about it.

November 22, 2009 at 9:34 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NASCAR really dropped the ball. They let Hamlin rub their nose in it. The whiner should have been parked after carrying out his publicly announced threat. He was so proud that he didn't wreck him bad - as if he had any control over that. What if Brad had been injured seriously. When these idiots think that instead of fists they can use a two ton race car as a weapon - they should be parked. I hope there is some payback to Hamlin - he has caused his own share of wrecks.

November 22, 2009 at 11:06 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You get it. You really get it. Every time Denny opens his mouth he makes a bigger fool out of himself, while Brad stands there and laughs about it. Denny gets hotter and hotter until you feel the heat rise.

Not only have we seen a budding rivalry, but more humor than we've seen in years.

Denny has become a whinner because he doesn't want another driver to touch him. Hey denny, didn't you hear BF say this is a contact sport?

November 22, 2009 at 11:13 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Matt, you really, really don't get it. Denny, who is not my favorie driver by a longshot, handled this just about perfectly. He got into the Brat, but did no serious damage to either car, took his penalty and came back for a good finish - ahead of the Brat. As for your psychological profile of the two guys, get over it. You have no clue who is the more emotionally mature and to take the Brat's word for it is even more ludicrous. Brat is gonna have plenty of problems driving for Penske next year and we'll just have to see how "maturely" he handles adversity.

November 23, 2009 at 7:25 AM 

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