May 11, 2013, 5:43 PM EST
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.”
Nov 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
The outgoing crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. also talks about his successor needing to make his own mark.
Nov 25, 2014, 5:45 PM EST
The Delaware family court hearing is a separate matter from the ongoing police investigation into allegations of assault against Busch by his ex-girlfriend.
Nov 25, 2014, 5:15 PM EST
Brian Scott gets a new crew chief for 2015’s XFINITY campaign.
Nov 25, 2014, 4:44 PM EST
It may be Thanksgiving week but NASCAR AMERICA is still on tonight at 5 p.m. ET.
Nov 25, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
The ex-Caterham pilot runs 95 laps in the Sauber C33 at Yas Marina Circuit.
Jay Mohr back to host this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards; Aloe Blacc, Lady Antebellum among performers
Nov 25, 2014, 3:48 PM EST
A star-studded affair to come for NASCAR in Las Vegas.
Nov 25, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
Palmer logs only 37 laps for Force India in Abu Dhabi, but places fourth on the time sheets.
Nov 25, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
Caterham not only stays for test, but banks 100-plus laps on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 25, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Carlos Sainz Jr. has a good day with Red Bull, as he stakes claim for Toro Rosso seat in 2015.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
Rosberg pounds out 114 laps – the most of any driver – in Day 1 of testing in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
IndyCar’s available pool of talent, as always, is larger than the number of remaining seats.
Nov 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
The Ford squad enters this week’s World RX finale down four points in their fight for the team championship.
Nov 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
McLaren-Honda gets out, with ideally more to come on Wednesday.
Nov 25, 2014, 11:36 AM EST
One Mercedes team on top, one former Mercedes team gets install laps only.
Nov 25, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Go inside the numbers of this year’s final F1 points standings.
Nov 25, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
GP3 champ to have first F1 run.
Nov 25, 2014, 9:40 AM EST
Ex-Lotus reserve will have his first IndyCar test in December.
Nov 24, 2014, 8:03 PM EST
The two drivers answer the call of the open road.
Nov 24, 2014, 6:26 PM EST
The future NASCAR on NBC analyst talks about how Rick Hendrick and his partnerships with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have impacted his life.
Nov 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
Dillon will run the No. 33 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series in addition to continuing his full-time duties in Sprint Cup.
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