Denny Hamlin downplays tweet
LOUDON, N.H. -- Denny Hamlin will be more careful the next time he spouts off on Twitter.
And that's a guarantee.
Hamlin sent out a tweet after a disappointing finish in Chicago last week that was widely seen as a guarantee he would win this Sunday's race in New Hampshire. But he said Friday that the comments -- "This is week 1 of 10. We will win next week." -- were nothing more than his usual confidence in his next race.
"I said it as basically another way to say, 'We'll get them next week,' " Hamlin said before qualifying at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "I feel like I can go win each and every one of them. Really, it's nothing more than that. ... People were just taking it a little further than that, but I'm racing -- doing the best I can -- and that's all I'm going to do."
Hamlin then went out onto the track and qualified 32nd in the 43-car field after his Joe Gibbs Racing crew made its second costly mistake of the Chase, incorrectly setting the tire pressure to race level.
It comes five days after the gas man failed to fill Hamlin's tank on the final pit stop at Chicago. Hamlin wound up finishing 16th in the Chase opener, and fell from the points leader to fourth.
"I knew something was wrong," Hamlin said about the mistake that will force him to start near the back of the pack in New Hampshire. "I knew something was really, really wrong because the car was bobbing down real bad. But, simple mistake. We'll rebound from it. We're quick enough. We'll get them, but that's frustrating. "
Jeff Gordon earned the pole Friday with a qualifying lap of 134.911 mph, with Kyle Busch joining him on the front row. Brad Keselowski, who won at Chicagoland and leads the Chase for the Sprint Cup, qualified 15th.
Chase for the Sprint Cup Standings
Brad Keselowski won at Chicago to take over the top spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
|1. Brad Keselowski|
|2. Jimmie Johnson (-3)|
|3. Tony Stewart (-8)|
|T-4. Denny Hamlin (-15)|
|T-4. Kasey Kahne (-15)|
|T-4. Clint Bowyer (-15)|
|7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-17)|
|8. Greg Biffle (-19)|
|9. Martin Truex Jr. (-21)|
|10. Kevin Harvick (-24)|
|11. Matt Kenseth (-26)|
|12. Jeff Gordon (-47)|
Hamlin enters the race No. 4 in the Sprint Cup. The deepest starting spot for a race winner in New Hampshire was 38th by Jeff Burton in 1999.
Hamlin won at New Hampshire in 2007 and finished in the top three in four of the previous six races, including this July. He was the fastest in practice Friday.
"That obviously gives you a ton of confidence," Hamlin said. "By the stats, it's one of my best race tracks. I know that everyone talks about all the wins they could have, but I just (have) handfuls of wins I feel like we should have that we don't for simple, little mistakes.
"When we come back here, we know that we did have the best car here in July. We didn't finish it off, but those are mistakes that we all learn from. So as long as we don't have that flub again, there's no reason why we still won't be in contention with 50 laps to go again."
Between practice and qualifying, Hamlin tried to quiet the hubbub with another tweet, saying: "Not really sure what all the buzz in the media is about my tweet last week. I didn't guarantee, didn't promise, just made a statement.
"If each driver in the chase didn't think he could win each week, he would be lacking the confidence that it takes to actually make it happen."
But some of his competitors thought the confidence could hurt him in the end.
"I guess he enjoys pressure, because that certainly places a lot of pressure on you," Clint Bowyer said. "I'm going to call his bluff."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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