LOUDON, N.H. — As a football coach for the Washington Redskins, Joe Gibbs didn’t like his players providing bulletin board material. He feels the same way as a car owner in NASCAR.
He didn’t find out about Denny Hamlin’s matter-of-fact guarantee of a victory in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway until it had gone viral.
By then there wasn’t anything he could do to defuse it, so he sat back like everyone else so see if his driver could back up his words.
Much like he was with defensive tackle Dexter Manley, Gibbs was relieved when Hamlin lived up to his promise.
But that doesn’t mean he likes it.
“You knew Dexter was going to say something like, we are going to kill ’em or something, you know what I mean, and I would be going like this: Don’t you dare,” Gibbs said. “I’m glad I didn’t hear about (Hamlin’s guarantee) until later on because normally that one for me doesn’t work out. So anyway, I’m glad I didn’t hear it.”
Hamlin tweeted “We will win next week” as he left the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 16. He did exactly that, leading 193 of the final 207 laps for one of the most-dominating performances of the season.
After so many bungles, Hamlin’s team finally kept things together long enough to keep him out front. But instead of dwelling on all the lost opportunities, Hamlin has become the glue that keeps everyone on the No. 11 Toyota from falling apart.
Hamlin finished 120 yards ahead of Jimmie Johnson at New Hampshire.
“You just learn from over time, what it takes to build a championship team and what makes these guys tick,” he said. “You don’t think as a driver that your emotion has any bearing on how they perform, but it really does. I find over the seven years that I’ve been here, it’s just that they really feed off of your attitude and your outlook, and obviously when I have confidence they have a ton of confidence.”
He lost the 2010 championship to Jimmie Johnson on a miscalculation on fuel in the next-to-last race at Phoenix.
He lost the July race at New Hampshire by changing four tires during the final pit stop while everyone else got track position with two tires.
He lost at Richmond two weeks ago when his team guessed wrong on approaching bad weather. And at Chicagoland, his crew didn’t fill his gas tank on the final stop and he ran out on the last lap while running fourth.
If that wasn’t enough, his crew put the wrong air pressure in his tires before qualifying at New Hampshire, sending him back to 32nd on the starting grid.
Hamlin responded by getting his crew together before Sunday’s race and assuring them he has faith in them.
“For two weeks in a row, we had two things happen on our race team that really – two of our best people, and I think the way Denny reacted both times was just absolutely great and I think that meant a lot to his team,” Gibbs said.
For Gibbs, Sunday’s win was the 100th in his organization’s history. The next chance to improve on that is Sunday’s AAA 400 at the Dover International Speedway.
This time, Hamlin’s not making any promises.