DOVER, Del. (AP) - Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs isn't trying to change Denny Hamlin's outspoken ways. He just wants his star driver to use ``good judgment'' when he does address controversial topics.
Hamlin created a stir when he criticized Clint Bowyer's excuse for why his car flunked a follow-up inspection after winning at New Hampshire. Kevin Harvick, Bowyer's Richard Childress Racing teammate, retaliated against Hamlin during Saturday's practice and the two Chase drivers exchanged profanities in the garage.
Gibbs spoke with Hamlin about his comments that sparked a weekend full of acrimony.
``I think looking back now, I think, yeah, he wishes he could take back some of that and not make that the issue that it's become,'' Gibbs said.
On Sunday, Hamlin did his talking on the track at Dover International Speedway. He finished ninth to stay atop the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings with a 35-point lead on four-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
Gibbs wasn't worried about tempers flaring Sunday or perhaps down the line as the pressure grows in the title hunt. Gibbs wants to keep the focus on racing, not popping off.
``It's just distracting. That's what you don't want, distractions when you're in the Chase,'' Gibbs said.
Hamlin considered the issue over.
``They wanted to voice their displeasure the way they did. That's fine,'' Hamlin said. ``I didn't see those guys really all day. So everyone I think was focused on their own race. I think there's too much to lose within this Chase for anyone to really do anything that's out of the ordinary or make a dumb move. There's too much at stake for these race teams.''
DOVER DOWN: Dover Motorsports President Denis McGlynn told drivers in the prerace meeting not to be ``self-conscious'' about declining TV ratings and attendance. It was hard for them to miss all the empty seats Sunday at Dover.
The speedway has plenty of fans to target as entire sections were closed off and there was plenty of light in the turns. NASCAR estimated the crowd at 88,000. The track holds about 135,000 and it only looked slightly more than half full. McGlynn acknowledged before the race attendance would be light.
``It's going to be up slightly from May, but we're going to have a lot of empty seats,'' he said.
He was right, but he's not alone. NASCAR has seen attendance and ratings dip this season. McGlynn said he was working on ticket packages for Dover's two NASCAR weekends next season that targeted the ``lapsed fan.''
McGlynn plans nine family sections scattered around the stands for next year's races. No smoking, no drinking and $10 tickets for kids under 14.
``We're trying to make it an offer that an older guy can't refuse,'' he said. ``Now he's got no excuse not to bring his kids and grandkids out there.''
McGlynn would still like to expand the garage area, one of the smallest on the circuit, making it easier for teams to work and allow fans a more comfortable experience. He talked about building a platform overlooking the garage that would give fans a birds-eye view of the area.
``I think we can get that done just as soon as the economy improves,'' McGlynn said.
'DINGER'S DAY: AJ Allmendinger was an early surprise threat to win his first career Cup race. He led a whopping 143 laps - behind only winner Jimmie Johnson - until a cut rear tire forced an early pit stop and dropped him a lap down.
Allmendinger rebounded in the No. 43 Ford and pulled off a strong 10th-place finish Sunday.
``It was fun to lead,'' he said. ``No wonder Jimmie is smiling so much. It's actually a lot of fun to lead. The car was dialed in and just a stupid 5-cent washer got inside the tire. I'm not sure when.''
He has only one top-five finish and led only 33 laps this season. But he got hot down the stretch and scored a top-10 at Richmond and followed with a 12th-place finish last week at New Hampshire.
Allmendinger is 21st in the points standings.
``I think we're getting there,'' he said. ``Can we go out and win one? We've got to keep getting better. We've got to be consistent inside the top 10. Today was a big day for that.''
Allmendinger has never really been a serious threat to find Victory Lane, leading only 186 career laps in 108 races.
KENSETH WOES: Matt Kenseth's championship hopes all but ended at Dover. He had tire issues, finished 18th and is 11th in the points standings, 165 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, knows he's in a deep hole.
``To be honest, there was a lot of pressure here,'' Kenseth said. ``This is the only track we've run worth a darn at in about four or five months probably, so there was a lot of pressure to try and get a good finish out of here and we couldn't get it.''

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