Denny Hamlin needs a history lesson.
No one quite knows if the quote or its numerous variations came from the Bible, Abe Lincoln, or someone standing on the corner of Winslow, Arizona. However, it appears Hamlin never heard the adage “Better to remain silent and be thought of as a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt”. He turned what should have been a celebration into a childlike tantrum on national television.
Denny Hamlin was understandably disappointed with a P24 finish, especially after being crashed out in the final laps from the lead. But when the day began, there was a straightforward objective: race your way into the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway next week any way you can.
Mission accomplished for Denny Hamlin
That should have been the end of it. All Hamlin had to do was drive his No. 11 back to the garage, celebrate a bit with his crew and car owner and begin prep work to go after his first career Cup Series title in the season finale. But as famed ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso would say when disagreeing with a celebrity guest’s pick for a game-winner, “Not so fast.”
Instead of reflecting on Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series elimination race, where points leader John Hunter Nemechek still made the Final 4 despite a P39 after crashing out, Denny Hamlin chased down the man he felt did him wrong - race winner Alex Bowman. He wasn’t going to take success lying down, or so it appeared.
At the end of the race, one of the lasting images was a mano a mano confrontation on the track, just with car grilles nose-to-nose. Whatever point Denny Hamlin was trying to make of it, he finally backed off. That was until he climbed out of his car on pit row, where he would catch a case of verbal diarrhea as the media approached with their microphones.
Alex Bowman is far from being a dirty driver and is not known for intentionally wrecking anyone. He is a six-time winner on the circuit, with four coming this year alone, and drives for one of the most respected owners in the sport, Rick Hendrick. Yet, Denny Hamlin, with expletives flying, called him a hack – twice – and claimed he still can’t drive.
Some could chalk it up as being in the heat of the moment, but there was plenty of time from the checkers to the drive to the grid to cool down before Hamlin decided to take questions. That didn’t happen and what it did was elevate Denny Hamlin to elite crybaby status.
Kyle Busch, it could be argued, is the best driver of his generation. He is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer with a personality that shines when he gets a chance to do color commentary on Xfinity or Truck Series races. When things are going well for the Las Vegas native after donning a firesuit, he is one of the more engaging personalities at the track. Just don’t throw any adversity in his direction, because faster than you can say Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he'll open up a bottle of whine.
However, something strange happened in the aftermath of the Xfinity 500 on Sunday. Busch would finish second in the race, although it was just not good enough to make the Championship 4 field. He was sure to get interviewed on pit row, and when it happened, the only thing you heard was the resignation of not advancing. The negativity was, for the most part, held in check.
On the flip side, you have Denny Hamlin taking his place in the Championship 4, yet stealing any joy he or his team might have had from that accomplishment. At 40, he is one of NASCAR's grumpy old men.
So when did Denny Hamlin become Kyle Busch?
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Note: This article is subjective and solely reflects the opinion of the writer.