Denny Hamlin moves onto Michigan at even-par -- or better
All things considered, Denny Hamlin felt fortunate to escape Bristol Motor Speedway with a third-place finish in last Sunday's rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
And for several good reasons.
He overcame a pit-road speeding penalty of his own doing, a loose-wheel problem whose blame fell on his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew, and the fact that he completed the race on older tires than most of the rest of the top contenders.
At one point, Hamlin was even two laps down to the leaders before rallying in a big way.
"We definitely got it a lot better there at the end and proud that we're able to come back from two laps down and get a good finish out of it," Hamlin said. "But still a good overall day. ... Just came up a little short."
After everything he went through, Hamlin said he is going to take the finish and hustle off to this Sunday's next race at Michigan with a grin on his face.
He said he's also going to take some lessons learned going forward into the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup that will determine this season's champion.
"I feel pretty good about things to be honest with you," said Hamlin, who entered the Bristol race coming off his second victory of the season at Watkins Glen. "We hadn't had a speeding penalty in probably five or six weeks and we hadn't had a loose wheel maybe all year, so I mean those are small things.
"I sped. I knew I sped when I did it. In the playoffs, I'm not going to be that aggressive, but out here trying to get a win -- a win or nothing attitude in the regular season -- that's when I push it."
Overall, Hamlin put his Bristol day into terms that he, as an avid golfer, could appreciate.
"We didn't have a race-winning car today to be honest with you -- our balance was off a little bit-- so I think we maximized our day to be honest," he said. "I would have loved to race on straight-up tires there (at the end), but we had to do some strategy there to get our track position back, so it was a very par day for us."
Since only the cars driven by race winner Kevin Harvick and runner-up finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. placed ahead of him, it could be argued that it was better than an even-par day.