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Motorsports 101 Debate: Should Denny Hamlin Sit Out the Rest of 2013?

July 3rd, 2013 at 9:43 AM
By Mark Eddinger

Denny Hamlin missed four races earlier in the 2013 season due to a compression fracture in his first lumbar vertebra suffered during his crash at Auto Club Speedway. Hamlin has had back issues in the past and since his return to the track has taken hard hits at Dover and this past Sunday at Kentucky due to blown tires. The question that Motorsports 101 debates is whether Hamlin should sit out the rest of 2013 to be fully healthy for 2014?

Throw Away 2013 to Heal Properly – By Clayton Caldwell
Denny Hamlin’s 2013 season has been a huge disappointment. He missed four races early in the 2013 season due to a back injury and now appears to have no chance at a Chase birth, even if he wins races, being so far back in the point standings.
'2009 Kobalt 500 March 8 Karl's Pictures - 01 (31)' photo (c) 2009, Hans J E - license:
Whether or not Hamlin should rest is up for debate. Hamlin obviously wants to race but another big time hit on his back and that could mean some bad things for him. That reason is the reason why he should get the back surgery and make sure he is healed and ready to go for the 2014 season. 

If something flares up during the 2014 season, who knows what that could do to his season or even his career. Gibbs has a viable replacement in Brian Vickers, who filled in for Hamlin when he ran sat out the first four races. Vickers is too deep in the point standings in the NASCAR Nationwide Series to worry about running for the championship. Vickers could run the races he is scheduled and find another driver to replace him in the #55 team for the race Mark Martin will miss. 
Allowing Vickers to run those races in top notch equipment would help him in the future. Michael Waltrip Racing should see that and not have a problem with it.
Denny Hamlin is only 28-years-old, which means he has at least 12 more years to win races and championships. The last thing Hamlin should do is jeopardize his career and further injure his back, especially if there is nothing for Hamlin to race for. The team should have had a better plan with Hamlin and should have kept him in championship contention for 2013 and Hamlin would be right where he needs to be. 
Instead he now needs to throw away his entire 2013 season and rest up for the championship run he is poised to have in the 2014 season.

Win in 2013 for 2014 – By Mark Eddinger

No driver is ever going to want to sit out one race let alone a slate of 19 that remain on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule this season. We already saw that with Denny Hamlin earlier in the season when he missed the four races and was itching each week to be in the car.

'' photo (c) 2013, Parker Anderson - license:

With Hamlin's return to the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team many (including myself) thought that he would be able to make the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup field. Now with nine races left to make up 102 points on 20th place, which is more than he had to make up seven races ago when he returned at Darlington, it seems like Hamlin's Chase chances are gone.

Should Hamlin give up on the season? If he is not healthy and his back would be better moving into the future with a surgery or other procedure then it would make sense for Hamlin to call it quits on the 2013 season. He is a championship caliber driver but not without his health.

But with that said, Hamlin is a racer and he said it himself best why he won't give up on the 2013 season.

"Definitely have to proceed on," Hamlin said in a Toyota Racing transcript of his post-race comments this Sunday. "We're just going to try to win races and that's what my job is for the rest of the year is to try to win and do the best I can for my sponsors and my team."

FedEx is the sponsor for Hamlin and there is no doubt that FedEx wants their man in the seat of the No. 11 and not Brian Vickers or Mark Martin for the rest of 2013. Drivers hate to let their sponsors down as well.

Also by racing out the rest of 2013 the No. 11 team can build toward 2014 and gain momentum back that they have not had. After scoring second and fourth place finishes in his first two races back he has finishes of 34th, 8th, 30th, 23rd, and 35th. The eighth was good but not considering the track, Pocono, where Hamlin is one of the best.

By running the rest of the season Hamlin hopefully can come back in 2014 and be a championship contender. His team though should not put experimental setups and things like that in his car that could be less durable. While they want to learn for the two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, that will be in the Chase, they need to remember their driver's health and try to keep the hard hits to a minimum.

Tags: Brian Vickers, Chase for the Sprint Cup, Clayton Caldwell, Denny Hamlin, FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing, Mark Eddinger, Mark Martin, Motorsports, NASCAR, Sprint Cup Series

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