RICHMOND, Va. — Denny Hamlin did not shy away in the slightest from a mass of questions in the wake of penalties that encumbered both his NASCAR XFINITY Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins from Darlington Raceway.
Instead, during his press availability Friday at Richmond Raceway, Hamlin calmly and coolly took every question asked of him in stride and said he’s turning his focus to chasing success at his home race track this weekend.
“(Having the penalties) is a ton of motivation, for sure,” said Hamlin. “Trust me, this is not what I wanted to talk about coming to my home track, for sure, especially after our weekend that was fantastic. That part of it stinks, but also there’s tons and tons of motivation that will be behind us this week to go out there and perform well.”
“So far through the practices, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
Hamlin, who was zinged for rear suspension violations at Darlington, said that he was aware early in the week that penalties might be a possibility, prior to the official announcement on Wednesday from NASCAR.
“I heard something on Monday or so – I think later on Monday or early Tuesday – that it was questionable and that it needed further review,” Hamlin explained. “My crew chief went and saw it for himself on Wednesday. He deemed it not right. So I would agree with the assessment.”
Hamlin added that his crew chief, Mike Wheeler, said that the violation was clear and worthy of a penalty, even if it was in an area that wasn’t intended to be illegal but ended up as so due to racing conditions.
“He (Mike Wheeler, crew chief) agreed it was worthy of a penalty,” Hamlin said. “I asked him what his honest opinion – was this a judgment call, what? He said, “It wasn’t right, so (it’s a penalty).” To be fair, it wasn’t right at that moment. We didn’t start the race with an illegal car. It worked its way that way. When I say, ‘It worked its way,’ it was so close, but so close doesn’t matter. It was still over the line.”
“I hate the position I’m put in. I hate the position he’s put in. We just didn’t allow for running into the wall with five laps to go. We didn’t allow for the dirt and the grime to get in there and loosen those things up as bad as it did. It’s unfortunate.”
The Virginia native said that the high of sweeping NASCAR’s throwback weekend at Darlington was dampened due to the penalty announcement.
“It sucks. I know personally, (the area in question) had nothing to do with winning the races,” Hamlin affirmed. “I’d won five other races at that track well before that. I’d love to line ’em up again. That track is special to me. It was a special weekend all in all. It took something that was super positive and turned it into a negative pretty quick.”
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