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Aug 01, 2014 - 05:54 PM
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Hamlin Remains Confident Despite Crew Chief Being Sidelined
Posted by: ASkyler on Aug 01, 2014 - 05:48 PM
Feature Articles
Hamlin Remains Confident Despite Crew Chief Being Sidelined

By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service

LONG POND, Pa. - Denny Hamlin isn’t expecting his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to miss a beat, even with crew chief Darian Grubb facing a six-week suspension.

"I’m in pretty good hands with a guy I’ve been with 10 years," said Hamlin, referring to team engineer Mike Wheeler, who will fill in for Grubb.

"I’ve been with Mike longer than I’ve worked with anyone in the Cup Series. He’s been ready to crew chief for a pretty long time. I don’t think things will change at the race track too much.

Darian’s in constant contact with Wheels at all times and myself."

Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill were suspended and Hamlin was docked 75 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points by NASCAR for violations discovered after the No. 11 Toyota Camry finished third at last week’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NASCAR found several rear firewall block-off plates detached, resulting in a redirection of air flow and possibly additional downforce.


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Finishing no worse than eighth in any of the last three races, Hamlin had climbed to 11th only to slide to 21st when the points penalty was applied.

"It sucks because you lose a little bit of that momentum," said Hamlin, who remains in position to make the Chase field thanks to his victory at Talladega. "But you also know that regardless … we

were running pretty fast last week. We’re pretty confident that we’ll get through this and, by Chase time, we’ll be a contender.

"You use stuff like this as motivation to prove that you can run fast no matter what. We were on a run the last month-and-a-half to two months. I feel like our cars are really starting to turn the

corner. I’m excited about what these next six weeks bring."

Hamlin said he expects that Joe Gibbs Racing will appeal the severity of the penalties. If upheld, Grubb would be eligible to return for the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Hamlin showed speed early in Friday’s practice for the GoBowling.com 400 and finished 13th on the speed chart at 178.955 mph. Kurt Busch's Chevrolet (180.353) and Brad Keselowski's Ford

(180.155) were the only cars to exceed 180 mph.

Earnhardt out of limbo

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won the June 8 race at Pocono, says this week’s announcement of Greg Ives as his crew chief for 2015 was a huge relief.

"I don’t like being in limbo," Earnhardt said.

But that doesn’t mean that parting ways with his current crew chief Steve Letarte is becoming any easier.

"There’s a lot of emotion," said Earnhardt, who sits second in the Sprint Cup standings. "Every race gets a little bit harder knowing this is Steve’s last year. I know that winding down into the

Chase is going to get pretty emotional for both of us."

Earnhardt appears happy with the selection of Ives as well as the timing.

"We are not trying to photocopy Steve and plug in a guy just like him," he said. "We want to try to get better. I think we have in making this decision. I already know how good Greg is, but know

that Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief) and everybody believes in that decision. I think we will be even better off than we are today."

Knaus says he’s looking forward to working alongside Ives at Hendrick Motorsports.

"Greg is obviously a very good fit with me and the rest of the team at the 48/88 shop," Knaus said. "He worked his way up from a mechanic to a chassis set-up guy to the No. 48 lead engineer and won

championships with us. I think from that standpoint (the decision) is really a no-brainer.

"Dale has matured enough now that he can handle (the situation). (Greg) brings fast race cars. When you have fast race cars everything else seems to just take care of itself."

Seeking a turnaround

No better than 10th in any of his last four races, Jimmie Johnson is looking to reverse his fortunes at a track where he’s recorded seven top 10s in his previous nine starts

and Hendrick has captured the last four Sprint Cup checkered flags.

"It’s no secret that the middle portion of the year has always been a challenge for the No. 48," Johnson said. "This year has been as inconsistent as probably any of them for us.

"When the Chase starts, we roll into our 10 best tracks, so we’re trying to maintain sanity until then and obviously keep progressing."

Fans can enter Chase Grid Live Sweepstakes

Last week, NASCAR unveiled Chase Grid Live Sponsored by Toyota and Sprint, a free outdoor fan fest located on North Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago on September 10 and 11. As part of the event, which will culminate with a two-hour live show featuring all 16 Chase drivers, fans can visit www.NASCAR.com/ChaseGridLive to enter the Chase Grid Live Sweepstakes. The Grand Prize package includes an all-inclusive trip to Chicago for a VIP experience at Chase Grid Live, two VIP access passes to all three national series races at Chicagoland Speedway, a ride in the Toyota Camry Grand Marshal car before the Sprint Cup race, and $1,000 spending money. Fans can enter through August 29.

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