Move over Kyle Busch, you may be getting some company in the bad boy category in NASCAR. If gauging the fan base the week after Daytona is any indication, it appears that both Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon are heading towards Busch’s direction. As far as Hamlin goes, he’s been picking on the new wave of NASCAR’s stars as of late and it’s putting him in that category as a result. If we were to pick NASCAR’s most popular drivers heading to Atlanta, I think most would say Chase Elliott would be No. 1 and Darrell Wallace Jr. would be No. 2.
Hamlin, has had beef with both.
The spat with Elliott started last October in Martinsville. He purposely crashed Elliott in the closing laps of the playoff race on the Virginia paperclip. It was a bad move and ill advised. I blamed Hamlin then for that crash as he had no reason to make the move that he did. All he had to do was move Elliott over but not intentionally crash him.
Elliott, got payback two weeks later in Phoenix. Again, I blame Hamlin for that too. Elliott, bumped Hamlin not once, not twice, but three times in a span of five laps on the 1.022-mile track. At the time, Hamlin would have easily been advancing to the Championship 4 at Homestead. Jimmie Johnson crashed out already and Brad Keselowski was marred outside of the top 15. Hamlin, really had to just finish inside the top 20 and he was going move on. So, why not let Elliott by?
He was naive and ended up crashed.
Both times, Hamlin wouldn’t take responsibility. He said he was getting pushed from behind at Martinsville when replay showed otherwise. There wasn’t anyone close to the bumper of his No. 11 Toyota. At Phoenix, he said he tried to slow down and let him by but Elliott chose to stay behind him. Well, you didn’t slow down enough. I’m not a race car driver but I know that you could go way high in Turn 1 at Phoenix, go way off the throttle and let him and others by. He could have afforded to lose 5+ spots and still been fine. Then, if Elliott followed him up there, who’s the bad guy now?
On the final lap at Daytona, Hamlin and Wallace Jr. got into one another while battling for a second place finish. After watching several angles of the replay, it appears that Wallace tried to side draft Hamlin and got into his right front tire. In real time, it looked like Hamlin tried to run Wallace high and put him into the wall at the start/finish line. His defense this time was Wallace ran into him and his tire cut down, causing him to run up the track, in which Wallace was on his outside. That caused both to crash.
In this case, Hamlin is 100-percent right. But, Wallace took a shot at Hamlin’s prescription drug comment in his post race interview and was visibly upset with him. The two even exchanged words afterwards as well.
Instead, Hamlin was blamed and had a fan base turned against him. Refer back to the Elliott deal as to why. Now, Wallace is gaining a huge following and his fans and others will blame Hamlin no matter what.
When you get into it with two of NASCAR’s young guns, let alone their top two most popular ones, it will certainly put you in the bad boy category.
Then there’s Austin Dillon. For some reason, fans are blaming him for his last lap move on Aric Almirola. To me, Dillon did absolutely nothing wrong. Almirola blocked him. He admitted to doing so too. What was Dillon supposed to do, just hit the brakes? If he did that, there goes his second place finish and he’s likely crashed because you can’t hit your brakes on a restrictor plate track.
So, Dillon made two moves, and Almirola blocked both. Almirola’s unfortunate ending was his fault, not Dillon’s. He told you that too. But, NASCAR fans don’t want to hear it. Almirola, was very classy and showed poise afterwards. Dillon, has always been looked at as a spoon fed driver who is only in Cup because of his grandfather Richard Childress. But, fans seem to forget that Dillon won a championship in Trucks and XFINITY and did a great job of avoiding carnage all day. It wasn’t a fluke that he was in second place on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
He’s still getting negative feedback, so he’s now saying he will embrace wearing the black hat.
We have two drivers that weren’t at fault for their last lap moves at Daytona as 2018’s early bad boys. That shows how much pull these younger drivers have on this fan base.