Posted 09/21/2012 at 02:46 PM
Denny Hamlin tweeted to the world following the disappointment of last weeks 16th-place finish, "This is 1 week of 10. We will win next week."
During Friday’s first practice session in preparation for Sunday’s Sylvania 300, he took the first step in backing up his words by laying down the fastest lap. Hamlin’s speed of 134.820 mph was in qualifying trim, which should make him one of favorites to win Friday’s pole, but it also keeps him as the favorite to win Sunday’s race, just as he said he would.
We don’t see many NASCAR drivers make statements like Hamlin did last week just because it’s so hard to make good with so many different things occurring that are out of the drivers control. It’s surely harder than calling a home run in baseball, as Babe Ruth allegedly did the World Series at Wrigley Field, and it might rest below The Jets beating the Colts as 17-point underdogs in Super Bowl III, but whatever the case is, I’m loving it.
It’s a long Chase with nine races to go, but I like that Hamlin is psyching himself out and setting himself up with some lofty goals. The thing about it, though, is that he’s not really going out on a limb. He is the driver to beat at New Hampshire, as his 8.5 average finish attests to. And despite being listed as the third choice to win the Chase in recent Vegas odds, he’s still got the best skill-set/past preformance combination of car, driver and crew chief among all the drivers at the remaining nine tracks.
So maybe even as great a home run hitter as the Bambino was, hitting a called home run might have been more difficult than Hamlin winning at New Hampshire this week. And in Ruth‘s case, it‘s debatable if it even happened, as some baseball historians have discounted the feat as a fable.
Jeff Gordon was second fastest in the 90-minute session at 134.174 mph, followed by Regan Smith, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.
Because we have two more practice sessions Saturday, and most of the top times were from drivers in qualifying trim, I don’t put much weight into today’s session, other than acknowledging drivers who were fast in single lap times. Only two drivers ran at least 10 consecutive laps.
The average speeds are distorted because some drivers ran as high as 39 laps like Brian Vickers -- who I like this week, while others contending, such as Brad Keselowski, ran only 11 laps.
I’ll have a full run-down Saturday with what drivers I thought looked most impressive.