Hangin' with Hamlin: Big weeks coming up

I'm pretty optimistic going to the first Car of Tomorrow race at Bristol.

We had the fastest car during a test session in February and don't expect it to be much different when we get there for practice on Friday. Qualifying is a really, really big deal there, and we're going to try our guts out to get the pole.

It's tough to say why we've been really good on the COT. I'm sure everybody did their homework as good as we did at Joe Gibbs Racing. But we do have a really good engineering staff that came from Indy cars and they were able to bring that technology to what we have.

We can get better, but we've got a great place to start. We're not out in left field like some teams.

Even if this wasn't a COT race we'd be feeling pretty confident. Our strong suit last year was short tracks. Our program is really good and I'm really good on them because that's where I have the most experience.

I was kind of worried with the Car of Tomorrow I would lose my advantage, but it looks like we kept up with it.

It's been a hectic week, especially Tuesday. I did the usual workout thing, then worked with a radio contest winner who donated $500 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to have lunch with me and J.J Yeley.

Then I drove to the shop and did pit-stop practice with the guys before going to the new house to check on the progress they're making.

I don't do pit-stop practice much. They had a Car of Tomorrow they wanted to use with a race motor actually in it. They needed somebody to drive it who wouldn't blow the motor up.

Last week was busy, too. I went to Martinsville to unveil the 60th anniversary grandfather clock that they've got for the winner next week. It's a once-in-a-lifetime clock and I definitely want to get that.

These next two, four or five weeks should be pretty good for us. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to short tracks and figuring out what we need to do to make our other programs better.

All three of our teams at Joe Gibbs Racing are strong now and in the top 12 in points. My car isn't running as well as I'd hoped, but it takes awhile. You can't just jump back in the saddle and have it all like last year unless you're Jimmie Johnson.

We've just got to figure out what we're missing. I met with crew chief Mike Ford on Monday to tell him what I was feeling in the car versus last year and why I'm not feeling it.

Our cars have been so much looser than they were last year. We changed a few things on the front end just to keep up with the times. We just need to get back to the basics.

But things are definitely positive around the shop. J.J. is running a lot better than he did last year and Tony Stewart always is good. As a program, we're better than what we were last year at this time.

J.J. and I were pretty fired up for the rookie of the year battle last year. Now we're just worried about 41 other guys. It's not as competitive as what it was.

Tony still sets the standard for us at Joe Gibbs Racing. J.J. and I both compare ourselves to him. When he's up front leading laps like he was last week at Atlanta and we're struggling to run 30th we wonder what's the problem.

There's no inside bets on who finishes first among us, though. It'll all pay off in the end.

Denny Hamlin is the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet. A native of Chesterfield, Va., Hamlin will share his weekly thoughts on and off the track with ESPN.com readers with the help of writer David Newton.