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Denny Hamlin says winning just isn't that big a deal at this point in the season....and he says that should be changed

  Denny Hamlin: NASCAR should pay more points for wins (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   BRISTOL, Tenn.
   Winning should be a really big deal in stock car racing, and it's not that big, really, in the big picture, Denny Hamlin says.
   The chase, the championship, too much emphasis on that, and not enough on winning races.
   "It's the truth...and the bottom line is 'What is the difference in me finishing second or finishing 42nd?' Hamlin says.
   "It makes no difference whatsoever -- unless I win. And then if I do win, it's only 10 points (the bonus added at the start of the playoffs).  That is two spots in one of the chase races. 
    "Even though we get rewarded some more points for winning, it's still consistency is what pays in this sport, and not winning."
    So Hamlin says NASCAR should pay more points for winning: "I'd like to see it to be more. I just think that winning is a big deal. 
    "It's such a hard thing to do in our sport, and people kind of take it for granted.  But just ask Jeff Gordon – it's been a long time (April 2009), and he's one of the best in our sport.
    "If it paid more (points) to win races, I think you would see guys racing differently. 
     "We race to a certain format. When they change the format, you'll see our driving styles change because of it."
    Part of this issue is the possibility that this year's Sprint Cup champion might well be a man without any tour wins. Going into Saturday night's race here Gordon was winless, Tony Stewart winless, Carl Edwards winless, Matt Kenseth winless, Clint Bowyer winless and Mark Martin winless, all men with a shot at the title.
    "It wouldn't hurt my feelings if someone won the championship that was winless," Hamlin says. "We race to whatever they set the rules.
    "I would be willing to take a fifth-place finish every chase race because that will win me a championship. 
    "Our year (Hamlin's) has been more wins (five) than we've ever had...and less top-10s than we've ever had.  That up-and-down is tough. That's not what championships are built on. 
    "(But) I'm not going to risk finishing 42nd.  That's the plain fact of it:  You can't afford those 40th-place finishes (like his 37th two weeks ago at Watkins Glen). 
     "I'm not going to push my car as hard as it will go, because the reward is not worth it.  There's just not that big of a points jump the higher up that you go.
    "The 'Win, win, win!' attitude is not always the best for a championship. 
    "I've gone into certain chase races and said 'Man, I've got to get a win, I've got to get a win.'  And I end up crashing, when I should have just taken a fifth-place finish and moved on and had a shot at the championship.
    "I think after drivers get bit by that attitude so much, that's when everyone starts to realize the more you back it down and get what you can, the better shot you're going to have at winning the championship."
   Which is the downside – and has always been the downside – of the point system that rewards consistency over victories.
   And Hamlin of course isn't the only one in this sport to push for bigger points rewards for victory.
   Here, Hamlin freely admits "We're in the position where if we don't win, this weekend really doesn't mean that much too us. 
    "Our attitude is to throw whatever we can at the car.  If we're off, we're going to take some risks and maybe run terrible but maybe hit that magical setup and go out there and win and get 10 more (bonus) points for the chase. 
    "But, really, when you think about the grand scheme of things, that 10 points is only two spots in one chase race. 
    "So right now it's more about building momentum than anything."
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