On Friday in the media center, Hamlin was asked whether he has room for another grandfather clock. His response? “I’m going to win it this weekend, I promise.”
After everything that happened at Fontana with not being able to race and the piece of metal in his eyes, Denny Hamlin is totally focused on winning another grandfather clock at Martinsville Speedway. It should be no surprise based on his previous success at Martinsville over the years.
Hamlin got off to a good start this weekend as he led the first practice on Friday, before qualifying second behind teammate Kyle Busch.
“We really fought loose all during qualifying runs and just didn’t get it quite tight enough for that last one,” Hamlin said. “Tire wear is going to be big on Sunday and it’s something that we’re going to work on tomorrow during practice and focus on. We got quite a bit of race run in today just in case it does rain. We feel pretty confident in what we have for Sunday.”
Hamlin added that he knew when he was out in that second qualifying group that the run wasn’t pole-worthy based on how it felt and was surprised to qualify second. Hamlin attributes that to the fact that a lot of drivers are probably free right now.
“These cars are putting down more horsepower than they ever have so it’s harder and harder to get your car to come off the corner and that was what we fought through the two sessions,” Hamlin commented. “It got progressively worse from the second session from the first. Obviously, just came up a bit short.”
As a result of qualifying second, Hamlin will have to start on the outside for the initial green flag, which isn’t the preferred spot to be in. However, the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota is not concerned.
“The one good thing you can have is teammates up front that cut you breaks here and there and that’s what we’ve done a lot with the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Matt Kenseth) over the last couple years is cutting each other breaks,” Hamlin said. “Giving that position back after you get going green because once you do get hung up on the high side you definitely are at a huge disadvantage over the bottom lane. I would much rather be fifth on the bottom than second on the outside pole any day. There’s a lot of time to make it up. It’s just those last crucial restarts where you definitely want to put yourself on the bottom.”
Whether it’s starting inside or outside, Hamlin feels that qualifying up front is going to be very important not only for track position, but also pit selection as he feels there’s only four to five pit stalls at this track that are top notch. Though even with that said, he feels other guys, like Earnhardt Jr. and Harvick, can get themselves in contention despite their poor qualifying efforts.
“You’re same five to six guys are going to be in the mix no matter where they start,” he commented. “While it is critical to get one of those pit stalls that would be the only disadvantage. I’d say if we somehow qualified 30th the only disadvantage we would have would be on pit road. We could make up that position in 500 laps on the race track. Although it’s important, it’s not totally critical here.”