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Hamlin Knows He Needs To Be Good Boy At Mville

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 2 2016
Denny Hamlin has done well at Martinsville Speedway. He could have done better, he said, had he kept out of trouble on pit road. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

Denny Hamlin has done well at Martinsville Speedway. He could have done better, he said, had he kept out of trouble on pit road. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – With Jeff Gordon’s retirement, Martinsville Speedway’s top three race winners no longer compete, leaving Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin as the only active drivers in the top 10 of this statistic.

sprint-logo-08In a category NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads with 15 victories, Johnson ranks fourth with nine wins while Hamlin is ninth with five. When asked Friday who he considered his biggest competition, the Chesterfield, Va., native surprised the media by citing himself.

“I don’t know how many pit road penalties I’ve had here at this race track or why I choose to push it on pit road knowing that I have the speed on the race track that we’ve shown,” Hamlin said during preparations for Sunday’s STP 500.

“I think I’ve had two in the last bunch of races, just consecutively. That’s been a challenge and last year in the fall race I beat up my car pretty good trying to come back through the pack the second time or maybe it was the first time I had a penalty. I think it’s me just being a little more cautions on pit road and making sure that I’ve got a car that can finish the race with all four fenders.”

Hamlin, who qualified his Toyota eighth for Sunday’s event, said a driver who expects to win at the half-mile track must avoid a pit road penalty early in the 500-lap race.

“Luckily, most of my penalties have been early in the race, but still it takes its toll on the car to have to come through the pack multiple times,” said Hamlin, who’s the defending race winner. “I think a lot of it, too, is that we typically qualify pretty well here so then we’re trying to play with the timing lines on pit road. You can get a bunch, but you can also lose a bunch if you mess up and speed like I have. I think that really qualifying good has hurt us. It’s put us in position to give us the option to go for it on pit road at times when probably backing off would have been smarter.”

Hamlin said he’s looked at the next six races on the NASCAR schedule and if he doesn’t win two of them he would probably be disappointed.

“Mine and ‘Wheels’ (crew chief Mike Wheeler) relationship is really getting there, even though we’ve worked together for a really long time, we’re starting to get really on the same page and getting the cars like I like to drive them,” Hamlin said. “I look at this point in the schedule as let’s take advantage of getting some wins and getting some bonus points for the first round.”

Joey Logano, who has yet to win this season, has the pole for Sunday’s race, earning it with a 97.043-mph, 19.513-second lap in a Ford. Joining Logano on the front row is Chevrolet’s Kasey Kahne.  

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 2 2016
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