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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Putting off ACL surgery has come back to bite Denny Hamlin

I knew it couldn’t be that easy.

When the report first came that Denny Hamlin had a torn ACL, everyone said it wasn’t a big deal. He could just deal with the pain for the year, many commentators said, and he was still a threat to take the championship away from Jimmie Johnson. The competitor in Hamlin told him to put off the surgery. He could deal with the pain, then take care of the problem in the offseason.

I never got that impression. I figured this couldn’t be as simple as, “He’ll gut it out.”

The reality is that’s not so easy with this kind of injury.

Now, afraid of possible permanent damage, he has to have the surgery, and will likely be in too much pain to race the full distance for at least a few weeks, starting at Phoenix. He will have to let someone else drive his car for several races -- after he takes it to the first caution, of course. That someone will be Casey Mears.

Unless Mears can put on some great performances (and the driver changes don’t take too long), the already struggling in points Hamlin may have just blown his shot at making the Chase and battling for the title by having this surgery now. I know hindsight is 20/20, but if Hamlin had done the surgery in January, his situation would be a lot better right now.

I’m not a doctor, but even I know that a torn ACL is a big problem, even in NASCAR. By putting off his surgery, Hamlin has created a situation where his dedication to the sport has hampered his chance to do well in it.

I don’t question his reasons, which were motivated by his dedication to racing … he is just like all the other racers who want to “play hurt” because they are true competitors.

Unfortunately for Hamlin, that decision may have led him into a disastrous season.

Shorten the race
After watching the thrilling 250-lap Truck series race at Martinsville, which featured great battles up front and through the field for 250 laps, a thought occurred to me: Why is the Cup race so damn long? At 500 laps, the Cup race is never exciting all the way through. The drivers race hard to start, settle in for about half the race, then race hard at the end. It’s just too tiring and hard on the car to battle full-throttle for 500 laps.

I would suggest cutting the race back to 400 laps, so there is more of a sense of urgency to get to the front. There would probably still be some lulls in the excitement levels, but it would better than the current 500-lap setup.

Brighter future for Mears?
His year hasn’t started so great, missing 5 of the first 6 races in his new ride at Keyed-Up Motorsports’ startup team, but this opportunity to back up Denny Hamlin could turn into a brighter future for Casey Mears, who has bounced around quite a bit during his time in the Cup series.

If he can turn in some decent runs backing up Hamlin, any team that needs to make a driver change mid-season might be willing to give Mears a go. Or perhaps a quality Nationwide or Truck series team might give him a shot. If Mears is smart, he’ll view this opportunity to back up Hamlin as an audition, and hopefully it will lead to something for him.

Rainy day all over
So both the Cup race in Martinsville and Indycar race in St. Petersburg were rescheduled due to rain, and the Formula 1 race in Australia was affected by the rain. Sounds like Mother Nature had a plan for all these racer types on Sunday. Also, I think a few people might call into work on Monday.

Great Formula 1 race
For those who follow Formula 1, there was a great battle Sunday in the Grand Prix of Australia. After the snoozer to open the season a couple weeks ago, this one was a thriller, full of pit strategy, side-by-side racing, and thrilling battles for position all day long. Too bad they all can’t be like this, because the series would be a lot more popular in America.

I also love the rivalry brewing at McLaren, where Jenson Button sailed to victory after a great pit strategy, while his teammate Lewis Hamilton was complaining about how the crew handled his strategy and was soon after involved in a wreck and finished 6th.
Can you say jealousy?

On one last F1 note, I’m pretty sure Michael Schumacher isn’t very happy with how his return to the sport is going. Not only is he not winning, he is being outperformed by his young teammate. Maybe coming back wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Twitter is big news
In this digital age, what qualifies as news continues to change.

I recently got a release celebrating the fact that Nationwide series driver Colin Braun had reached the 8,000-follower mark on Twitter, which expressed Braun’s gratitude for the fan response. A contest is in the works for when Braun reaches 10,000 followers.

Apparently Braun now ranks 20th among the top 35 NASCAR-related Tweeters … Funny, I wasn’t even aware such statistics were kept.
For the record, Juan Pablo Montoya is on top of the list with more than 135,500 followers, Danica Patrick has 123,500.

"Social media is such a great way to get fans closer to what I'm doing," Braun said. "I love being at autograph sessions or around the track, and I meet fans who say that they are following me on Twitter."


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