Denny Hamlin says it's easier for a driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race now than it was in the past.
"It's easier for the driver to win because it's really about the crew chief these days and the strategy they play," he said Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "In my opinion, it's not as driver-important today as it used to be. There's so many more factors...which makes it interesting at times. But you just don't see, in my eyes, the top three drivers in Cup winning as often as what you would think. Ultimately, it's out of their hands most weeks."
Hamlin said the Goodyear tires used in the Cup Series have made a significant impact on the racing. Whereas drivers used to be upset at Goodyear's tires for not being up to par, they're now too good in some ways, Hamlin said.
"Honestly, the tires are better," he said. "I know that's what Goodyear wants and what NASCAR wants and what the drivers want as far as safety is concerned. But nowadays, drivers don't pay any price for overdriving a race car."
Watching tapes of old races, Hamlin said he noticed how the cars with little downforce and soft tires were able to overtake one another more easily – which made for better racing. These days, drivers say it's extremely difficult to complete a pass (sometimes even of a lapped car).
"Drivers like Mark Martin that you've seen for years and years be so good at saving his equipment, it's not as big of an advantage anymore because the tires are so much better," Hamlin said. "I would like to see in the future tires that we run fast for a lap or two, but then drop off tremendously."
That would force teams to pit for tires and not attempt a fuel mileage gamble or other pit strategy quite as often, Hamlin said.
"(Fuel mileage) is all part of racing – I understand that," he said. "But you like to see fast cars win races."
Because the tires are so good this year and don't wear out as easily, Hamlin said he believes the rubber is a big reason there have been so many different winners.
"In the last year, guys are driving corner entry way harder than what they should be allowed to," he said. "And I think that's some of the reason you see some of the new drivers winning this year. You just don't pay a price anymore for overdriving your race car because everything is just so good now."