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Mar 28, 2014 - 06:23 PM
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Denny Hamlin: 'I Don't Know Why People Question Who I Am'
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 28, 2014 - 06:23 PM
Feature Articles
Denny Hamlin: 'I Don't Know Why People Question Who I Am'

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

MARTINSVILLE, Va.— Cleared to race after a shard of metal and rust residue were removed from his eye, Denny Hamlin fielded questions Friday from reporters in the media center at Martinsville Speedway.

Before he left the dais, Hamlin forcefully defended his record and his reputation against innuendos suggesting he might have had an ulterior motive in sitting out last week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Fontana, Calif.

"People who think negatively of me or think that we side-stepped some sort of drug test or something, it’s ridiculous," Hamlin said emphatically, after describing in detail the procedures under which the sliver of metal was diagnosed and removed. "I’m in one of the top three cars in NASCAR. I would have to be an absolute moron —moron! — to risk that. I have a daughter I have to provide for [for] a really long time. For people to question who I am inside and outside the race car ... I’ve never done anything to even put that in question."

NASCAR doctors held Hamlin out of last Sunday’s race after the driver complained of impaired vision, the result of what was originally thought to be a sinus infection. Hamlin was taken to a nearby California hospital, where he said a specialist discovered the tiny sliver of metal in his eye.


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Hamlin is often in the public eye, more so than most other drivers, and believes his high profile makes him a target for criticism.

"I go to Charlotte Bobcats games," he said. "I go out and hang out with friends out in public. I don’t stay tucked in my motor home. I don’t stay tucked in my house. It’s not what I like to do. Because I’m out there a little bit more, people think I go out and party.

"I got a wake-up call, because I don’t drink at all, hardly ever. I’ve never done drugs — ever. I’m as clean as they come. I don’t know why people question who I am outside the race track."

Hamlin appeared in fine fettle on Friday. He posted the fastest speed (101.021 mph) in opening NASCAR Sprint Cup practice in preparation for Sunday’s STP 500, the sixth race of the season in NASCAR’s premier series.


The new version of the revolutionary track-drying system NASCAR introduced this weekend at Martinsville (Air Titan 2.0) will cut drying time from 25 to 50 percent, based on atmospheric conditions, but that’s hardly the full story.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the upgraded version of the system introduced in February 2013 at Daytona International Speedway is the anticipated savings in fuel consumption and the dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.

The Air Titan 2.0, which operates on compressed air, produces 2.6 times the air volume of its predecessor but at less than 10 percent of the air pressure.

"It consumes 78 percent less fuel per hour, and when you combine that with the reduced drying time, we actually are reducing fuel consumption on a drying cycle by about 91 percent," said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development.

"We’re emitting 80 percent less CO2 (carbon dioxide), and when you combine that with the shortened drying cycle, we’re reducing CO2 by about 92 percent per drying cycle."

Under the leadership of chairman and CEO Brian France, NASCAR continues to work at the vanguard of green initiatives in professional sports in its endeavors to reduce the carbon footprint of stock car racing.

"Imagine being asked by your chairman to go to battle with Mother Nature, win that battle and continuously improve over time in a way that they’ve done — and do it greener and in a way that integrates partners that’s completely along the lines of the history of how we’ve built the NASCAR Green platform," said Dr. Michael Lynch, NASCAR vice president of green innovation.

Air Titan 2.0 also is more compact, with the system contained in a specially equipped Toyota Tundra rather than a large flatbed truck. There are 20 units in the fleet, and they can be deployed to different areas of the track.

The number of units used depends on the size of the track. At .526-mile Martinsville Speedway, eight units are available, along with four jet dryers and an Elgin sweeper. Elgin, with its eco-infused vacuum truck, is a new NASCAR partner.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been close — to the tune of 10 top fives, including two runner-up finishes, at Martinsville Speedway.

Earnhardt’s late father, seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt, won six times at the venerable short track and each time earned a grandfather clock trophy for his efforts. There are few things Earnhardt Jr. would enjoy more than following his father’s example.

"This is a track where I’ve been trying to get a win for a long time," Earnhardt said Friday before opening Sprint Cup practice. "I grew up in a house full of clocks, so it’s been pretty elusive. We’ve had some good cars in the past here that I’ve felt like could have won races, and we just weren’t able to get the job done for whatever reason — somebody was faster or whatever.

"Looking forward to having another opportunity. Every time we come here, we’re excited. I love short-track racing. I love this track. I love the history of this place, what it represents. It’s a joy to run here and a lot of fun to race. It can be frustrating, and you’ve got to battle all day to maintain your track position, but it’s a good challenge, a fun challenge."

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