NASCAR has its own answers to the Chicago Cubs. As a fan, it’s hard not to feel for drivers like Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Week after week, there are glimmers of hope and moments of brilliance. In Truex’s case, he dominated the race, and yet it was Denny Hamlin wrestling away the spoils at Kansas.
That lucky son of a gun, how does he do it? A lot of people were thinking it. How many races do the above mentioned drivers go out and set sail for so much of the race, only to watch it slip through your hands, like that prize catch at the lake.
It’s different in other sports. The likes of Truex and Earnhardt find company in misery with the likes of the Texas Rangers, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Cowboys as those competitors who can’t close the deal. On the flip side,you get the St. Louis Cardinals, the New York Giants or the Dallas Mavericks; teams that have flaws, look like that skinny dude in the barroom that makes you think, I can take THAT guy,” and yet they somehow steal it away. Denny Hamlin? How does he do it? He’s not regarded as fearless as JGR teammate Kyle Busch, Hamlin doesn’t necessarily portray that cerebral sense of the moment that Tony Stewart has, but he’s no clubber with only a puncher’s chance.
Sunday’s win at Kansas earns Hamlin career victory number 19 in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series in career that dates back a little more than a half decade. may not be the most celebrated driver out there, with his win total, Hamlin has pulled even with Carl Edwards, and he’s passed Kevin Harvck, Dale Earnhardt Jr., an he runs north of Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne. All of the above have been around the series longer than Hamlin.
It takes me back what Hamlin said just a couple of years ago that “we just win races.” Winners have a sense of the moment, that ability to successfully take stock of what’s happening to capitalize to make it work for them. Is Michael Jordan triple-teamed? Kick the ball out to John Paxson. Is the D-Backs bullpen faltering? Call on the Big Unit or Curt Schilling. Is the sun coming out, do what Hamlin’s crew chief Darian Grubb did, recall notes from Friday practice, tweak the car just ever so slightly, and you catch the gy who’s having trouble with his tires, and catch him.
It’s teamwork, strategy, and capitalization coupled with good resources to delivers the win. It’s what the 11 team with Joe Gibbs Racing has, it’s what Jimmie Johnson had for five glorious (and still has if you ask me), and it what Tony Stewart has had since the Chase began in 2011. Champions won’t win in junk, but all the money in the world won’t make a champ out of a chump. A winner may fall, may encounter a slump, but they always get back up. You noticed there are some teams may get down, but they don’t stay there long.
It makes me think of this: while the pessimist and the optimist are arguing over whether or not the glass is half full, the opportunist grabs the glass and drinks it. NASCAR’s best drivers, among which Denny Hamlin is one, are opportunist.
Jim McCoy is a TV and radio sports anchor living in Oregon with his wife and three kids. Jim also moonlights as a radio play-by-play man and writes about his true sports passion: NASCAR. Racing is a sport, the others are just games, to paraphrase.
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