Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin Disagree About Texas, but Who’s Right?
Since Texas Motor Speedway was reconfigured in 2017, many believe that the racing product has suffered. Each year after the race, fans complain about the track and its lack of action, and, more specifically, the inability to pass. Drivers have largely agreed.
The 2023 race featured an entertaining ending, with William Byron claiming his sixth win of the year and the 300th in Hendrick Motorsports history. Despite that finish and history-making moment, a number of fans still weren’t fond of the race. Denny Hamlin is among that group. Brad Keselowski is in the other.
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin have solid finishes at Texas
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin were running inside the top five at Texas when a JJ Yeley crash brought out the caution with 26 laps to go. Both teams opted for two-tire pit stops while most of the cars around them stayed out.
On the subsequent restart, Kyle Larson got loose and crashed on the second lap into the run while racing Bubba Wallace for the lead. Another yellow flag.
On the next restart, the remaining cars didn’t make it a complete lap around the 1.5-mile track before multiple cars, including playoff drivers Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick, were involved in another crash.
Keselowski and Hamlin avoided trouble in each incident, made their way forward on the restarts, and finished seventh and fifth, respectively.
Keselowski and Hamlin disagree about Texas
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin recording solid top-10 finishes in the first race of the Round of 12 was a big step toward the goal of racing for a title. They saw what happened to their fellow playoff contenders like Larson and Kyle Busch.
Despite those similar good performances, the two drivers interestingly saw the overall racing product very differently. The 39-year-old viewed it positively.
“I thought there was a heck of a battle there at the end for the win,” Keselowski noted. “The lead swapped hands two or three times from what I could tell, and I honestly thought it was a pretty good race today.
“Not as good a race as we wanted to have in our car. We had a seventh-place finish and we wanted to be able to win today but wasn’t quite in the cards. There’s some more work to do there but I thought the race on the racetrack was pretty racy.”
Hamlin disagreed. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who was at Texas in August conducting a Goodyear tire test and has been outspoken about problems with the track on his Actions Detrimental podcast, said it was the same old problem.
“It’s just a tough track,” Hamlin admitted. “I mean, when SMI reconfigured this track, they just swung and missed on it, for sure. I don’t know what you do with it.
“The Next Gen car is really great on all of the mile-and-a-halves. It’s just this one is very tough. There’s just no tire falloff. I did the tire test, but Goodyear is always going to choose the most durable tire they can to not blow out. And when you have that, you’re not going to have any falloff, and then you’re going to have guys with old tires go out there and win.
“Passing is just very difficult. It’s hard because all the cars are running the same speed. Tires never fall off. It’s what we got.”
Drivers are reflection of divided fans
Interestingly, the differing viewpoints from Keselowski and Hamlin are an accurate reflection of what the divided NASCAR fan base thought about the race. In Jeff Gluck’s Good Race Poll, 59.5% viewed it the same as the RFK co-owner, while 40.5% saw it from the 23XI Racing co-owner’s perspective.
The Keselowski contingent considered it a good race because of the late action, as the 2012 Cup Series champion noted, including the restarts that shuffled up the front and allowed the two drivers to finish where they did.
Conversely, those who agree with Hamlin saw what happened before the JJ Yeley caution. The No. 5 was destined for Victory Lane, pulling away from the field a couple of times, each time getting out to a four-plus second lead. No one was catching Larson, who had led 99 laps when he crashed.
Wallace led a race-high and career-best 111 laps. Those two combined to lead for more than 78 percent of the race. That’s not reflective of a lot of “racy” action — at least not for the lead — as Keselowski suggested.
However, the caution for the No. 15 did come out and changed the game. The extra cautions thrown in the mix only added to the uncertainty and increased the entertainment value.
It’s easy to see the race from both perspectives, but it’s hard to claim one is right over the other. Both drivers and sides make valid points. In the end, it appears they’ll just have to agree to disagree.