Hamlin ready to move on after California collapse

Oct 16, 2009 - 11:50 PM By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer

CONCORD, N.C.(AP) -- Denny Hamlin is over last week's debacle at Auto Club Speedway.

He just wishes everybody else was, too.

Hamlin likely saw his bid for his first NASCAR title evaporate with 60 laps to go when the pole-sitter mistakenly tried to cut off a hard-charging Juan Pablo Montoya on a double-file restart. He didn't have enough room and his No. 11 Toyota ended up spinning into the pit road barrier.

The crash sent him to a 37th-place finish and dropped him from sixth to ninth in the Chase for the Championship heading into Saturday's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Hamlin made no excuses for the crash, blaming himself for the move that ended what had been a pretty steady run during NASCAR's playoffs.

"I was doing everything I could and just bit myself," Hamlin said. "It's just frustrates you for about two days and then you get over it and then you hear someone say, 'Hey, man, sorry about last weekend.' Then you're like, 'Well, I forgot about it until you said something."'

The wreck capped a particularly rough weekend for Hamlin. He was subbing for a sick Kyle Busch in the Nationwide race last Saturday when he got stuck between Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle. The ensuing wreck ended his day early and allowed Carl Edwards to take a bite out of Busch's Nationwide points lead.

Hamlin trails Jimmie Johnson by 219 points with six races left in the season. He's not quite ready to say he's out of it, but knows finishing in the top five may be a more realistic goal.

"The way this format is, the way this points system is, your (wins) don't help you as much as the losses kill you, especially racing against that many guys," he said. "It was a little bit easier when there were 10 guys. You could make up a little bit of ground and you're not racing those two extra guys. When they included all those extra guys in the Chase and now the competition level of the Chase and the guys running as well as they are, it's just going to be extremely hard to make up any points."


RUSTY'S TURN: Rusty Wallace has no problem with the five inaugural inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The former champion does wonder if the first Hall class should have been bigger than Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Sr.

"How the heck can you just take five?" Wallace said. "When you pick Junior (Johnson) you want to pick (David) Pearson, you want to pick (Cale) Yarborough, you want to pick Bobby Allison."

There's little doubt those drivers will eventually get in, and Wallace credited the selection process for giving the Hall a little buzz.

"The one great thing they did about doing it the way they did is it woke a lot of people up," he said.

Wallace just smiled when asked how long he'll have to wait until his name is called. He certainly fits the criteria, at least if the criteria was up to him. Wallace believes every driver that has won a championship should be a slam dunk for the Hall.

"I was (a star) in the 1980s and 90s, with Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett and Terry Labonte," Wallace said. "I expect when those names start rolling around, I'll fit in there somewhere."

Wallace added his Nationwide Series team is close to landing a manufacturer and that he already has full funding for the No. 66 car for next season and is hoping to have funding for the No. 62 wrapped up sometime soon.


HELP WANTED?: Brad Keselowski is waiting for Penske Racing to hire a crew chief for him in 2010, but he's been very pleased with the level of interest for the job.

Keselowski, who is moving into a full Sprint Cup Series ride next season with Penske, said employees from Richard Petty Motorsports have inquired about possibilities with the No. 12 team.

"I think that whole team is scared to death," he said. "That whole company is scared to death. Everybody that works there is scared and we've got a lot of interest from some of their people and that's interesting. That's encouraging."

Keselowski drives for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and part time for Hendrick Motorsports in the Sprint Cup Series, and said he doesn't believe crew members from either of those organizations will be following him to Penske.

But he still wants to help Penske get that team more in line with Hendrick Motorsports, and that his future organization is about "100 people short of where they need to be to compete with Hendrick."

"I communicated that with them and just wanted to know what their thoughts were on that," Keselowski said. "Resources-wise Penske is phenomenal. They have the same resources if not more than what Hendrick has to work with. It's just a matter of installing a depth in the personnel."


RINGS AROUND KAHNE: Kasey Kahne meant to make news by what was splashed across the hood of his No. 9 car and ended up talking about what was across the grille instead.

Kahne unveiled a special paint scheme Friday on his No. 9 car that will honor U.S. Olympians participating in next year's Winter Games in Vancouver. Instead of the trademark red paint scheme he's used for title sponsor Budweiser, Kahne's car will be all white with red Olympic rings on the hood and snowcapped mountains on the trim.

The paint scheme, however, was upstaged by the Ford Fusion label across the grille. The sticker is first physical evidence that Richard Petty Motorsports is switching from Dodge to Ford in 2010 as part of a merger with Yates Racing, a deal that has been short on details since it was announced last month.

"That's it I guess," Kahne said with a shrug when asked if the unveiling makes the move official.

The merger brings Kahne full circle. He left Ford acrimoniously in 2003 to join Ray Evernham's Dodge program, a move that gave him a full-time Cup ride. Now he's anxious to return, though he'll have to wait until the end of the season even though some of his RPM teammates may drive a Ford in one of the final five races.

"I'm a Dodge guy for 2009," he said.

Diecast replicas of Kahne's Olympic-themed scheme will be available starting Oct. 23, with all proceeds going to the United States Olympic Committee.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!