A victory at the season-ending race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway did little to ease the pain and frustration that came to define Denny Hamlin’s year. Even as he stood in Victory Lane, he was eager to put 2013 behind him.
For some, the end can’t come fast enough and the new season can’t start soon enough.
“We can spend these next two months regrouping, getting our team back in order,” Hamlin said minutes after his only victory of the year.
An early-season crash put Hamlin on the sidelines with a broken back. He also had four other race-ending crashes and three engine failures.
Tony Stewart missed the final 15 races after breaking his leg in a sprint car race; Danica Patrick finished the year with 35 consecutive finishes outside the top 10; A.J. Allmendinger finally put nearly two years of uncertainty behind him by finding full-time work for 2014; and, Martin Truex Jr. spent the entire Chase for the Championship being scrutinized – and eventually terminated.
“My mind is ready to go race,” Stewart said. “My leg needs a couple more weeks, but I’m ready.”
Stewart has been through three surgeries since his Aug. 5 crash. He’s on schedule to return in time to drive in another sprint car race a week before the Daytona 500.
Patrick admitted the jump from IndyCars to the Nationwide Series to the Sprint Cup Series was more daunting than expected. “Do I wish it would get better faster? For sure. I mean everybody that is not running in the top 10 every weekend wishes it would get better faster,” she said. Allmendinger failed a test for amphetamines 17 months agoand was hired as Bobby Labonte’s replacement at JTG Daugherty Racing next year.
“To have the opportunity to come back full-time with everything that happened, I know how very lucky I am,” Allmendinger said.
Truex was thrown out of the Chase after NASCAR said his race team conspired to affect the outcome at Richmond. The team let Truex go after longtime sponsor NAPA withdrew its support. He will drive next year in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet.
“As unlucky as I got ... I got just as lucky when this deal (with Furniture Row) turned up,” Truex said.
For some, the new season can’t come quick enough.