RIDGEWAY, Va. — Friday practice leader Denny Hamlin had a very simple, yet emphatic answer when asked what has led to a string of recent parity and different winners in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series action at Martinsville Speedway.
Hamlin was referring to the now-common practice of sharing information between teammates and manufacturer-related organizations over the course of a race weekend, in order to gain a competitive advantage and find an edge before race time on Sundays.
Data-sharing has become a cornerstone of the modern NASCAR event, allowing more teams to contend for the win during an event and leading to six different winners in the last six Cup races at the half-mile ‘paper clip’ shaped track.
The five-time Martinsville winner expounded on his point and added that mistakes can easily take you out of a race in the current mantra of racing at NASCAR’s premier level.
“Data-sharing has changed the game in which drivers learn how to be fast and how to be good at different race tracks,” Hamlin added. “It really has been a turning point, I think, for myself. And really, every time the field gets closer to you, you have less room for error to get a race win.”
“I’ve had so many speeding penalties at this race track … and I think I wrecked here last spring wheel-hopping, trying to come from the back after a speeding penalty … that it just makes you have to be on your game every single time. Before, I felt like I could come back from anything that was thrown our way during a race here, but you can’t do that now.”
Hamlin also said that, as the most accomplished driver on the Joe Gibbs Racing team at Martinsville, that he is often approached for advice by his teammates but that both Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch have found their footings at the Paper Clip in recent years.
“I’m often the guy that they come to, yes, but once they’ve seen (the data) one time and they copy that and use it to learn, they refine it to fit their own particular styles and make it work for them.”
“Matt and Kyle have, arguably, been a little better than I have in probably half of the last six races, but the information’s already been given and you can’t take it back … so at least the company got a race win here last spring (with Busch).”
However, he was up front when he said there was nothing he wouldn’t — and hasn’t — shared with his teammates, making clear that there were no secrets in his playbook when it came to his teammates.
“I give every bit of information that I have (to them),” Hamlin stressed. “There’s been times in practice here where I’ve felt something that’s been better for me, and I’ll walk right next door and tell those guys what it was so that it could help them too.”
“I’ll be honest, it’s probably lost me a few races here and there, but I think … in the grand scheme of things I would want the same courtesy from them at most of the other race tracks we go to. It makes you better overall, and I wouldn’t change it for that reason.”
And coming from a man with five Ridgeway grandfather clocks in his portfolio, to freely admit that he wouldn’t change having possibly lost a few more says quite a lot about the importance of the practice.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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