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Denny Hamlin goes the distance, but at what cost?

  Not a good weekend for Denny Hamlin (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Denny Hamlin hung in there all day and all night, all four hours of Saturday's Subway 600....but at the end of the night, what did he really prove?
   Hamlin, recovering from major knee surgery last week, struggled home 30th, two laps down.
   "We had a lot more issues than my leg," Hamlin said, clearly as unhappy with his car as with his knee.
   "We had a subpar car, and we just killed ourselves trying to change the battery. (That cost him two laps for the change.) We had electrical problems.
   "We shouldn't have had a problem...and then when we tried to fix it, we got ourselves behind.
   "Just fought all day...and it was just a miserable experience. To be honest with you, I would have been too embarrassed to give Casey (Mears, his relief driver) the car I had.
   "It's not what we're accustomed to.
  "But through thick and thin, we're a team. They'd give their left leg for me...and I felt it was my duty to try to do the best I can and keep this team as good as we can."
   Still, why risk further damage to his knee, by staying out there running? It may not look like such a good move when he gets to Texas later this week for next Sunday's 500.
   "We weren't going to gain anything by staying in there," Hamlin conceded. "The only thing I was going to gain was maybe some respect from the team guys...just because I knew our day was shot to hell.
   "I wasn't going to give up on them. I wasn't going to lay down on them."
   Pain? No kidding.
   "More than I can tell  you," Hamlin admitted. "I'm pretty sure I didn't do any damage...but I'm absolutely exhausted right now."
   And Texas? "It'll be a lot less braking," Hamlin said hopefully.
   "I don't foresee any issues when we get to Texas.
   "I knew if I could just survive this one I'd be fine when I get there."
   Friday Hamlin had expressed concern about how far he might be able to run before having to give up and get out. "But it was a lot better today...much, much better than Friday," he said of his left knee.
   "Proud I was able to do it....disappointed in our finish – more disappointed in that than I am happy that I was able to finish the race.
    "It was just a subpar crappy day."

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  Relief driver Casey Mears (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

The same thing that gives

The same thing that gives these guys the "onions" to drive one of these cars is often their downfall when they need to relinquish their duties because of injury or the lessening of their abilities at the end of their careers. Their pride won't let them give it up.

I don't blame Denny though, because if Casey Mears is the best backup driver JGR can get then they would have to pry me out of that seat before I would let him drive my car.

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