LOUDON, N.H. — After last Sunday’s race at Chicagoland, in which Denny Hamlin finished a disappointing 16th, the driver tweeted two simple sentences: “This is 1 week of 10” and “We will win next week.”
It was a bold statement, and one on which Hamlin was questioned upon his arrival at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Sylvania 300 on Sunday. It was also one he couldn’t back up in Friday’s qualifying. Though he had the fastest practice round (134.820 miles per hour), Hamlin had an issue with his tire pressure and ended up qualifying in 32d place (131.633). He said he had run in qualifying on race-pressure tires instead of qualifying pressure, which is typically higher.
“I knew something was really, really wrong because the car was bobbing down real bad — but a simple mistake,” Hamlin said. “We’ll rebound from it. We’re quick enough.”
Before qualifying, Hamlin clarified what he meant in Sunday’s tweet.
“Just confident that we could win,” Hamlin said. “It’s no different than the nine Chase tracks that we go to, other than Dover where I’m going to be realistic. I feel like I can go win each and every one of them. Really, it’s nothing more than that.”
But even as Hamlin was arguing that the tweet was sent solely to rally his fans, to let them know that he was looking forward to the race in New Hampshire, he also backtracked a bit on Twitter.
“Not really sure what all the buzz in the media is about my tweet last week,” he tweeted shortly before Friday’s qualifying. “I didn’t guarantee, didn’t promise, just made a statement.’’
Hamlin entered this week in fourth place in the Sprint Cup Chase, 15 points behind leader Brad Keselowski. He has had success in New Hampshire, with one win, six top-fives, and nine top-10s at the track.
“I guess he enjoys pressure, because that certainly places a lot of pressure on you,” Clint Bowyer said. “Who knows? I’m going to call his bluff.”
Lia stays on track
Donny Lia won the pole in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the 16th time he has taken the pole in his career. Lia has two wins at the track, and finished eighth in July. “My two wins here are special to me,” Lia said. “I’d like to win a third.” Ryan Newman spun out between the first and second turns of qualifying for the Modified Tour. He ended up qualifying sixth, and in eighth place in the Sylvania 300 . . . Brett Moffitt won the pole for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, followed by teammate Sergio Pena at No. 2. It was the third pole for the 20-year-old Moffitt this season, and his third career pole at New Hampshire, setting the series track qualifying record at 128.467 m.p.h.
Two more in 2013
New Hampshire Motor Speedway will continue to host two NASCAR Sprint Cup dates in 2013, including the second event in the 10-race Chase for the Championship, track officials announced Friday. The 1.058-mile oval will host its first race July 14 and the second Sept. 22. NHMS has hosted a pair of Sprint Cup races, NASCAR’s premier touring series, since 1997 and has hosted a Chase race since the inception of the playoff format in 2004 . . . Dave Blaney, qualifying for the absent Sam Hornish Jr., was atop the speed charts for a while during the practice round Friday. He ended up qualifying 10th, though that’s not where Hornish will get to start Sunday. When Hornish — who is in Kentucky, racing in the Nationwide Series — returns to NHMS, he will have to race from the last position since he did not qualify himself . . . Mike Olsen, who was handed a chance for his first Sprint Cup race by fellow New Hampshire native and friend Frank Stoddard, qualified 42d for Sunday’s race.