Hamlin versus Keselowski: Let 'em race

November, 15, 2009
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- I digress to the debacle at Talladega Superspeedway and a comment made by Denny Hamlin after NASCAR president Mike Helton told drivers to curb their enthusiasm with bump-drafting.

"Let us race," the driver of the No. 11 said. "They gave us the car to race. Now let the drivers handle it."

I refer to that comment because the same thing needs to be said in the Brad Keselowski-Hamlin feud.

Let 'em race. Let them handle it.

That's not going to happen. NASCAR officials, including chairman Brian France, met with Keselowski before Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway to talk about his aggressive driving that is ticking off fellow drivers.

They believe it is in the best interest of the driver and the sport to guide the rookie driver, to teach him ways to compete without making others so mad that they want to retaliate, as Hamlin promised after Saturday's Nationwide Series race.

But that's the main problem with the sport today: It's too sanitized.

In case you missed it, Keselowski caused Hamlin to spin out, igniting a war of words from Hamlin about his getting even. It was a continuation of the feud that began in May 2008 and escalated a few months ago at Dover when Keselowski wrecked Hamlin late.

With apologies to Ron Hornaday Jr. for wrapping up a fourth Truck series title Friday night, it was the most excitement of the weekend.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

As I sarcastically Twittered on Saturday, where do you think NASCAR would be today had Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers, Bobby and Donnie, gotten out of their cars at Daytona in 1979 and tweeted each other instead of exchanging fisticuffs?

NASCAR officials have used that clip to promote the sport for as long as I can remember. They do it because they know fans like the drama, the feuding and fighting almost as much as they do the racing. Some like it more.

We as sports writers certainly appreciate it.

What is happening between Keselowski and Hamlin is good for the sport. If they get into each other on the track, penalize them, slap them on the wrist and say they are bad boys.

But let them be bad boys.

We had a bad boy in Kyle Busch until he became sanitized. Drivers once complained about him the way they complain about Keselowski now.

You don't hear that anymore.

You may not hear much more from Keselowski and Hamlin after Sunday's meeting, although there was a certain confidence -- or maybe arrogance -- in Keselowski's voice that makes me believe he won't back off too much.

I hope not.

Let 'em race. Let them handle it.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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