Hamlin's Martinsville move went beyond hard racing
By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, November 5, 2017
Can you imagine how easy it must be to work in the marketing department at Martinsville Speedway?
Ever since Bristol was reconfigured and the track’s appetite for destroyed race cars was curbed, Martinsville has picked up the title of NASCAR’s go-to destination for mangled metal and hurt feelings.
After Matt Kenseth piledrove Joey Logano into the Turn 1 wall in the Fall 2015 race, the track’s marketing campaign for 2016 was set. I wrote around the time of the first race that year about how I had received ticket promotions in the mail, and nearly every one of them had photos of that crash or the aftermath on it.
Those folks whose job it is to sell tickets probably had the easiest week of their lives this past week, because Denny Hamlin did a better job to sell tickets to next year’s races than they probably ever could.
Maybe it was the fact no Cup race had ever lasted into the night at Martinsville, but the Monster Energy Cup Series sure made the first run for the track’s new lighting system a memorable one last Sunday. It looked like no less than five drivers were in position to win in the final 10 laps, with three lead changes, two crashes and one post-race confrontation occurring in the event’s final 30 or so minutes.
The most noteworthy is that last part, which saw a furious Chase Elliott door-slamming Hamlin after he used race leader Elliott as an extra set of brakes entering Turn 3 on a late restart. Instead of having a shot to win and punch his ticket to the championship race in Homestead, Elliott wound up in the wall and facing a nearly insurmountable points deficit heading into today’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin claimed after the race that he intended to drive into the corner and move Elliott, but not wreck him. The fact he had the No. 24 car’s tires jacked up off the ground, however, left little doubt as to what was going to happen. Elliott was a helpless passenger once Hamlin planted his nose on Elliott’s bumper and plowed off into the turn.
That exchange happened one corner after Elliott used up the door of Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 car, sending him way up the track in Turns 1 and 2. That move wasn’t the most sanitary, but at least Keselowski was able to continue, and he even snuck through the massive melee that occurred off Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag to steal a fourth-place finish.
Elliott never had that opportunity after his contact with Hamlin, who was viciously booed for the move during his post-race interview despite the event taking place in his native Virginia. Elliott, on the other hand, was cheered like never before.
This is exactly what NASCAR wanted when it created a win-and-you’re-in format for the playoffs. Hamlin couldn’t let a shot at the win and a Championship 4 berth get away, and whether he drove off into Turn 3 meaning to drive through Elliott’s car or not, the end result was contact that seemed to go beyond the simple idea of the “bump and run.”
With that said, though, it certainly made the end of the race far more dramatic. It also drove home the fact that short tracks still provide the best show in NASCAR.
And I bet it sold a bunch of tickets for next year’s races there.
Texas is a 1.5-mile track, so just insert your own witty thought here about how Martin Truex Jr. will probably win today because I’m pretty tapped and we still have Homestead to go in a couple of weeks.
PICK: Martin Truex Jr.
Contact Jordan Anders at email@example.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.