Around the Track: Hamlin determined at Daytona

Jul. 02, 2014 @ 09:29 PM

ONE MORE SPOT: Denny Hamlin returns to Daytona International Speedway looking for the one podium position that eluded him in February.

He had one of the most successful Speedweeks in recent memory when he opened the season with a win in the exhibition Sprint Unlimited and added another victory in the Budweiser Duel qualifying race. But when it counted, in the Daytona 500, Hamlin fell one spot short and finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Hamlin did, however, earn his first career points-paying restrictor plate race in May at Talladega Superspeedway.

But he wants that Daytona victory, especially after Saturday night's disappointment at Kentucky when a blown front tire on the 27th lap led to a last-place finish.

"We have obviously had a lot of success in the restrictor plate races this year," he said. "I think I have learned a lot about that style of racing over the years. I was always the guy that tried to start a new line and make something happen, and it didn't always work out for me.

"I think this year I have been a little more patient and let the race come to me a bit more. In the Daytona 500, we were just a little too far back on the last lap and made it up to second. I knew at Talladega that I wanted to be the one out front holding people off. I think that has been the preferred position in the last few plate races."

CUTTING BACK: Kyle Larson was the busiest man in racing a year ago, when he traveled coast to coast to race in anything he could.

A promotion to the Sprint Cup Series for Chip Ganassi Racing meant he had to cut back his schedule, which hasn't been as devastating as Larson had feared.

"It's not been bad at all," he said. "I was surprised, being such a die-hard sprint car racer, I thought not racing a lot of dirt track stuff this year would be bad, that I'd be bored. But I'm not."

Instead, Larson has found that his NASCAR commitments have him so busy there's very little time to race sprint cars. He's a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, where he's vying for his first win of the season and trying for a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, and pulls double duty on companion weekends with the Nationwide Series. He also owns a sprint car team.

For now, the focus for Larson is making the Chase. He heads into Saturday night's race at Daytona ranked 12th in the standings with nine races to go to set the Chase field.

"We're pretty confident," he said. "I think if we do get in the Chase, we're capable enough to make it on each round to the final round at Homestead. If we do get there, I'd be super confident that we'd pull it off, so I am hoping we can get into the Chase, for sure. I think we have got a good shot."