May 11, 2013, 5:43 PM EDT
Denny Hamlin believes that he can withstand the physical pain of tonight’s Sprint Cup event at Darlington Raceway, which will be his first full-distance race since suffering a fractured vertebrae in a last-lap crash back in March at Auto Club Speedway.
But the mental challenge will still be a daunting one for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who started last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway before giving way early to relief driver Brian Vickers.
“I’ll be able to make it physically, but it’s a matter of whether I can keep my mind engaged through whatever maybe physical pains I have towards the end to keep our finishes good and, obviously, have a chance to win,” said Hamlin, who starts sixth for tonight’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.
With a narrow racing groove that runs primarily up against the wall and a surface that’s regaining its traditional abrasiveness following a 2005 repaving, the 1.366-mile oval in the South Carolina sand hills is taxing enough for drivers that are fully healthy, let alone one that’s still working his way back to form.
But Hamlin is intent on gutting out the entire 500 miles tonight, and truly beginning his long-shot quest to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Virginia native is currently 31st in the standings and will need to not only break into the Top 20 but win at least one race to give himself a chance at making the Chase as a wild card.
Hamlin has never missed the Chase in his seven-year Cup career.
“We didn’t get that much [points] last week, so it’s going to be all on my shoulders to make the run towards the Chase,” he said. “We fell back an additional three spots last week in the points, so we have a huge, huge hole that we’ve got to dig out of. But there’s nothing that wins can’t fix. That’s the bottom line.
“If we put ourselves in position and win a race here and there — more than likely if we win a couple of races — then we’re going to be Top 20 in points, I would think.”
Apr 18, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT
Significant modifications to the Cup cars’ powerplants are likely to come within the next two seasons.
Apr 18, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
The two Andretti Autosport drivers appear to have put Sunday’s wreck behind them.
Apr 18, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
You can’t say these drivers don’t have a sense of humor.
Apr 18, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
The second round of the championship in Putrajaya, Malaysia will see drivers contest a short, 1.6-mile street circuit.
Apr 18, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Two races into his return to open-wheel, the former Indy 500 winner says he’s having a tough time with re-learning tracks.
Apr 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Here’s a look at the grid based on average qualifying positions through 2 races in 2014.
Apr 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
IndyCar drivers do their best “hey, this is what this sounds like!” imitations.
Apr 18, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT
Two practice sessions begin a new year for the WEC.
Apr 18, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT
Making the V6s louder might not be such an easy fix.
Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
German driver not yet happy with his own performance in China, but his long run pace suggests that a podium finish may be within his reach.
Apr 18, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Rookie errors from Lotus driver no big deal, apparently.
Apr 18, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Mattiacci thought that job offer was a late April Fools joke at first; says that necessary changes will take place.
Apr 18, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Spanish driver puts in an impressive display during practice, but warns that rain could scupper Ferrari’s chances of reaching the podium.
Apr 18, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
Yasuhia Arai reveals some more information about Honda’s decision to return to F1 and the Japanese marque’s plans for the future.
Apr 18, 2014, 6:45 AM EDT
Hamilton keen on the team correcting handling issues before qualifying tomorrow.
Apr 18, 2014, 3:32 AM EDT
Mercedes returns to the top of the timesheets, but Ferrari and Alonso are in close company.
Apr 18, 2014, 1:45 AM EDT
Can Mercedes fight back and resume normal service?
Apr 17, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT
Spanish driver ends Mercedes streak of first place finishes, but teammate Kimi Raikkonen fails to post a time.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT
You’ve heard of the wildly popular “Evolution of Dance” video on YouTube? Now there’s the Evolution of the Pit Stop.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT
NBCSN’s Rick Allen and Kyle Petty discuss the expectations for Gene Haas as he looks to start a F1 team. The pair question whether an F1 team can be run successfully out of the United States.
- Vettel suspects Mercedes of sandbagging during practice 1
- Mattiacci determined to turn around Ferrari’s failing season 4
- Hamilton recovers in FP2 to edge out Alonso and Rosberg 0
- Alonso fastest in first practice for Chinese GP 1
- Flashback to when a 67-second pit stop at the Indy 500 was fast vs. a modern-day F1 stop (video) 5
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