The Backstretch Blog: Call me, maybe

Auto Racing

Denny Hamlin wasn't 50 feet past the checkered flag when the twitter Negative Nellies started their chirping. Like a third grader on the playground cries no take backs, they were all over Hamlin's calling or not calling his shot at New Hampshire.

A little background here. After running out of gas and finishing a disappointing 16th last week, Hamlin tweeted "This is 1 week of 10. We will win next week."

Friday in at his press conference at New Hampshire he backed of the statement, a little, but not completley telling the media, "I said it as basically another way to say, 'We'll get them next week,'" Hamlin said.

My question is, does it matter that much? Is there a team running any better than the 11 right now? Calling his shot, not calling his shot, Hamlin has every right to be the most confident driver in the garage area right now. He's won three of the last five races.

"I knew once we got to about Lap 50 and started working our way to sixth, seventh position, I knew that we had the winning car," said Hamlin. "Just it's all those other things I talked about that you can't control that can keep you out of victory lane."

It's a completely different Hamlin then last season or even two years ago when he finished runner up in the championship. Even when he was backing off his called shot a bit on Friday, you could tell that he was really confident this weekend. This group believes it's a championship team.

"I find over the seven years that I've been here; it's just that they really feed off of your attitude and your outlook; and obviously when I have confidence, they have a ton of confidence," said Hamlin.

"So I just learned that over time, and really for me, I just learned to handle the bad days better and knowing that I'm one of a handful of drivers that have a great ride, an awesome sponsor, and have a championship-winning team backing me.

"So you know, I can handle the bad days when I put the grand scheme of things in a bigger picture."

The bigger picture is still a long way away. A lot can happen in eight races. But Hamlin's heating up just as the chase kicks in, is eerily similar to the championship drive his crew chief Darian Grubb engineered for Tony Stewart one season ago.

There are challenges ahead. Hamlin has been abysmal at next week's stop, Dover.

"All I can do is just have a positive outlook," said Hamlin. "You know, how we've run, we've been more cold than hot.  But I have had some races where I was pretty competitive."

I'm not going to hand the 11 team the cup yet, especially not with five time champ Jimmie Johnson leading the points. I will say to all those knocking the call his shot, not call his shot moment Hamlin had this weekend, stop sucking the joy out of sport.

Did he call it, maybe, I guess it's depends on what your definition of "is" is. But sport is supposed to be about fun and that was a fun moment. We are not trying find world peace. We are racing cars. So did he call it, call me (a) maybe.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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