“A Game of Millimeters”- Denny Hamlin & Joe Gibbs Bury the Hatchet as They Look Past Darlington Disaster

Published 09/04/2023, 9:34 PM EDT

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Sunday’s playoff race at Darlington was nothing short of a horror show for Joe Gibbs Racing. Leading from the front for the team was their star driver in the #11, Denny Hamlin. Denny was looking on course for another podium finish, to say the least, with the way he was running the car. However, all hopes lasted until that one unlucky pit stop that changed it all.

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The pit stop woes for JGR have also crept into the playoffs. Mulling their attempts in the regular season, pit stops have been a source of some glaring errors and a lot of lost time for their drivers. Discussing the elephant in the room, team owner Joe Gibbs and Denny Hamlin shed some light on the unwanted and unexpected situation they encountered at Darlington.

Denny Hamlin claims that such incidents are common workplace events

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In the initial moments of the second stage, Hamlin was one of the stronger drivers as he arrived in the pit lane. Going into the pit road while being the race leader was a hit-or-miss decision from the #11 crew. If things went right, Hamlin could have got back in contention for the lead and gone straight into a battle with 23XI Racing driver Tyler Reddick.

But things rarely go as planned in this sport, and if it is JGR at the pit stop, there are more chances of it. Denny Hamlin and Gibbs come together in the latest episode of the podcast ‘Actions Detrimental’, as they take a deep introspection of their faults in the first playoff race of the season.

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“I was happy.” starts off Hamlin. “I thought my team did great all day long. Afterward, I mentioned that this is just a game of millimeters. Things just don’t go on perfectly. These guys have muscle memory that I hit the lug for a certain amount of time if there’s just a little hitch or whatever.”

Racing in NASCAR is all about making the best out of the chances. Even minor tweaks can turn the tide in a matter of seconds in a driver’s positive or negative direction. Hamlin indicates at the same as he reveals that this is the first time he has felt this way in a Next-Gen car.

“It’s not tight but yeah it was… I thought our pit crew did a phenomenal job all race long. They were on it. No doubt about it. This is actually the very first loose feeling I’ve had in the Next-Gen.” said Hamlin.

With speculations about Hamlin’s future added to such blunders, it makes one wonder about how it affects their relationship. But Joe Gibbs will look to bank on Hamlin for some more years as the news of another multi-year contract extension comes in making their 18-year-old partnership one of the longest in NASCAR.

Joe Gibbs claims ‘hard practice’ is the way to go forward

The first pit stop of the second stage under the green flag was quite smoothly operated from the looks of it. However, Hamlin let his team know on the radio about the way he felt that the left-rear tire might be loose. In lap 273, Hamlin pitted again to rectify the errors, but to his shock, the crew found it hard to find anything that loosened up the wheel. The left rear tire is usually the most sensitive point of the car experiencing a huge amount of weight and jerks, making it prone to such faults.

Summarizing the whole incident, Gibbs had an insightful view on what to take away from these mistakes. He says, “I think it also highlights how hard our sport is.”

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“It is so hard to put together good cars and have cars each weekend that get to the race track fast. It’s so hard to do that and yet it only takes one slight error for a night. And in some ways, you kind of say that’s not right. But then again, it is right and we just gotta find a way to make it happen.”

Emphasizing the importance of imbuing the whole process into the crew with time and becoming faster and better gradually, he then comments, “I think the first thing you do is analyze everything that happened and then how do we improve, how do we make sure that it doesn’t happen again, or how to work on it if it’s a physical thing which that is. It’s hard practice.”

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With the partnership between the iconic duo set to continue for some more years, both parties will hope for a decrease in such errors in the future. Even more so at a stage as crucial as the playoffs, where one mistake could eliminate you from the tourney.

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Written by:

Ansuman Abhisek

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Ansuman Abhisek is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As an engineering graduate, he has a strong affinity for cars, and it didn't take long for him to translate that into his love for the sport. He is a big fan of Kyle Busch and believes that the Richard Childress Driver still has his best years ahead of him.
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Edited by:

Kratika Vajpayee

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