Despite "disappointing start" to weekend, Hamlin remains optimistic

Although Denny Hamlin battled the handling of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry throughout the first practice of the weekend, he still aims for Victory Lane Saturday night.

Denny Hamlin clocked in 29th in the first of two practice sessions at Richmond Raceway. Although he improved to eighth in the second practice, he remained displeased with the handling of his race car.

"I think that we have some issues for sure," he said. "We’re trying to work them out. Obviously, it’s super frustrating from my standpoint and it is for them, too. They don’t want to have to completely rebuild a car while they are at a race track. We are trying to figure it out. We’re trying to get between some teammates.

"We can get there here with some of our teammates, but we can’t on other things. I don’t know. It could be a really good race for us, it can also be really bad. I’m really not sure how it’s all going to turn out. I’m not sure with qualifying if it will be indicative of anything we have going on, but we’ll see how it all pans out. We’ll try everything we can to make the right decisions for tomorrow. We obviously didn’t get a whole lot of track time today.”

The Virginia native has three wins at Richmond with the most recent coming in the fall, 2016 race. His average finish is also one of the highest in the field at 9.6. 

“It was bad," he said of the handling Friday. "I couldn’t hold it in the groove without sliding up the race track. It was pretty major. We haven’t had issues like that in years and years, for sure.”

But perhaps a ray of hope with Hamlin qualifying on the outside of the second row in the fourth position. Beyond that, Richmond is a place where success is well known to Joe Gibbs Racing, having won nine of the last 18 races including a stretch of five in-a-row with Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

“There’s definitely been some good success between us and when we really started sharing data between each other we finished one-two a lot. But, that’s been a few years ago. We’ve been more hit and miss, for us I think we won last in ’16. We were competitive one race here last year and the other one, not so much. It’s really feast or famine for us here at this race track. We just typically, two guys who grew up on short tracks – this is very much a short track and drives like it. That’s kind of where the success came from earlier, for sure.”

Although the start to the weekend was disheartening, Richmond is still a great opportunity for Hamlin to get his first victory of the 2018 season and he knows it, saying, “I was really optimistic coming here that we were going to start pretty quick and the way our cars ran at Phoenix, everything is fairly similar with the cars. Like I said, here today was a struggle, where Phoenix was pretty easy for us.

"A disappointing start to our weekend, for sure, but it doesn’t hamper what we expect for tomorrow night. I’m hoping we get it all figured out and we’re competitive enough as we should be here.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Event Richmond
Track Richmond International Raceway
Drivers Denny Hamlin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Article type Interview