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Denny Hamlin wants to prove one Daytona 500 win ‘not a fluke’

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Denny Hamlin comes into this year’s Daytona 500 in a position he’s never been in before.

Winning last year’s race – the closest finish in the history of the Great American Race – will do that for you.

Even though he took in the Orlando Magic game Wednesday night, the defending 500 Hamlin was in a mood to also talk NASCAR.

Among the topics he discussed were defending his title from last year’s 500 win, as well as going for his second consecutive and fourth overall win in this Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

“Nothing aesthetically changes per se, but it’s a very proud moment when you’re announced publicly as a Daytona 500 champion,” Hamlin said. “It’s the biggest race of the year for us and the most historic by far.

“It’s great to have that label stamped on your resume for as long as you’re around and maybe even after. It’s cool to win any Daytona 500, but to win the closest one in history was a great moment. That clip (of him crossing the finish line just ahead of Martin Truex Jr.) has been played for many media outlets, I see it all the time and it just reminds me of how great a day it was.”

Now comes the question, what will Hamlin do for a 500 encore? He feels confident he can make it two in a row.

“I’d say there’s more pressure to get another one,” he said. “One of my good friends, Michael Waltrip, has two (wins) and reminds me that there’s only a few guys that have two. You think that after you’ve won one, the weight’s off and you can breathe easier now.

“But for me, you want to win two. You want to show that one is not a fluke. I feel like the last few years, we’ve given it a great shot and last year was obviously a great finish. But every time we step onto the race track at Daytona, we feel like we can win. We’ve won the Clash three times and so we’re capable of doing it. If anyone can go back-to-back, this is the year for us. But for me, you want to win two. You want to show that one is not a fluke.”

Hamlin kicks off his 2017 season in Saturday night’s Clash. If he wins it for a fourth time, Hamlin feels it will give him a leg up on fulfilling that goal of winning a second Daytona 500.

“That race (the Clash) is usually a race of attrition,” he said. “There’s usually a lot of wrecks, and a lot of it is because we’re rusty.

“These teams got to where they don’t like to run a whole lot of practice because they tear up race cars and then you’re building another race car that you really don’t need to. So the teams have pulled back on practice on Friday and Saturday and what I think that’s done is create more wrecks on Saturday.”

Hamlin also offered advice to new NASCAR Cup teammate Daniel Suarez, who is replacing Carl Edwards in 2017, as Suarez makes his first career Cup start in the Clash.

“Drivers are not used to how the cars are going to handle in the pack because the pack is never that big until you get in the race,” Hamlin said. “I encourage Daniel (Suarez) in particular to get out there and run with as many cars as possible because he’s going to find himself in positions that he’s never been in before. You’ve got to be aware of that.”

And how does Hamlin expect to win the Clash again?

“As a driver, I used the strategy of laying back at the beginning last year and we won it,” he said. “Two years ago when we won it, I tried to stay up front the entire event and it paid off.

“There’s several different ways to win but it’s a tough field. It’s the best of the best. You know you’re going to have stiff competition, but for whatever reason, it’s been a race that myself personally have had a lot of success at.”

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NASCAR America teaming up with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

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Wednesday will mark the beginning of a new relationship between NASCAR America and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Every Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. ET, a NASCAR on NBC personality will appear on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” which is hosted by Pete Pistone and Mike Bagley.

Analyst Steve Letarte will be the first guest.

Pistone will also make regular appearances on NASCAR America.

Pistone joined NASCAR America Tuesday night to preview the new relationship and the storylines heading into the second half of the NASCAR season.

The main theme of the discussion was the building frustration for Joe Gibbs Racing, which is winless through 16 races. Though the driver getting the most attention has been Kyle Busch, there’s three other drivers who are looking to win, including Denny Hamlin.

“We had his crew chief Mike Wheeler on the ‘Morning Drive’ last week and the frustration, you can feel it there,” Pistone said. “They also felt a bit optimistic, especially going to Sonoma because he runs so well there, he ran so well and almost won the race last year until Tony Stewart got him on the last lap. … I still think there’s optimism there in the 11 camp, they’re finding the speed they’ve been missing so far in the first half of the year. The next race at Daytona could be the place you see Denny Hamlin bust down the door to victory lane.”

Watch the above video for more from Pete Pistone.

NASCAR America: Sprint racing keeps Kyle Larson in shape for NASCAR

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Kyle Larson is in the midst of his best NASCAR Cup Season to date. He leads the points standings and has two wins, at Auto Club Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

You might be able to attribute his hot streak to another form of racing.

Larson, a product of the dirt racing circuit, told NASCAR America’s Marty Snider the 25 sprint car races he’s allowed to drive in each year by Chip Ganassi Racing keep him on his toes physically.

“I’ve gotten a little bit into working out this year, I’d rather race to get my exercise in,” Larson said. “Racing to me is fun, but also exercise and it keeps your mind in it. You’re putting yourself in more racing situations than everybody else in the field. I think it definitely benefits me.”

Larson maybe spent by this time next week. Following Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC), Larson will compete in four straight days of sprint cars race in Pennsylvania.

The Ganassi driver goes to Daytona looking to finish what he started in the Daytona 500. He was leading at the white flag before he ran out of gas in Turns 1 and 2.

“It’s difficult, it’s a long race,” Larson said. “There’s so much that goes on throughout the race, it’s hard to catch on TV. But we’re figuring it out all it in the car and learning who is good to work with and who is not. It’s interesting. It’s definitely a different style of racing I’m getting used to.”

Larson’s best finish in at Daytona was sixth place in last year’s July race.

Watch the above video for the full interview.

 

NASCAR America: Scan All: Anger and miscommunication at Sonoma Raceway

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Some people like to call road courses the new short tracks in NASCAR and at the end of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma, many cars backed up that assessment.

When there’s beat up cars, that means tempers flared, which makes for an interesting edition of NASCAR America’s Scan All. This week’s version gives you some of the best scanner traffic from Kevin Harvick‘s win at the California track.

Highlights include:

  • Israeli-born driver Alon Day, making his Cup debut, telling crew chief Randy Cox he can’t understand his accent. “You have to talk a bit slower so I can understand every word.”
  • “I needed a lot more help on that. The spotter doesn’t tell me ****.” – Danica Patrick after her Lap 14 accident with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • “We’ve got your in-car camera here. That was fun to watch. A little scary, but fun to watch.” – Crew chief Ernie Cope to AJ Allmendinger after he went from 11th to first in one lap on a restart.
  • “This year just could not get any better,” the sarcastic response of Kyle Busch to receiving a pit road speeding penalty.

Watch the above video for more from Scan All.

The Ragged Edge: ‘Days of Thunder’ celebrates 27 years

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Back in the yesteryear of 1986, Paramount Pictures released a little movie called Top Gun.

Directed by Tony Scott and starring a young actor named Tom Cruise, the movie depicted a hot-shot, hard-headed fighter pilot named Pete “Maverick” Mitchell who competed for supremacy at an aviation school against a rival nicknamed “Ice Man.”

Backed by the sounds of Kenny Loggins, the Righteous Brothers and Cheap Trick, the two rivals clashed in the skies and on volleyball courts, all while Maverick flirted with a his female instructor, ‎Kelly McGillis’ “Charlie.”

The movie made a lot of money.

Three years later, they made the same movie … sort of. This time, Cruise was piloting stock cars in the world of NASCAR.

Twenty-seven years ago today, Days of Thunder roared into theaters on matched perfect and staggered special tires.

Once again directed by Scott and with the same golden color palate from Top Gun, Cruise portrayed Cole Trickle as he faced off with Michael Rooker’s Rowdy Burns, clashed egos with Robert Duvall’s Harry Hogge and did some more flirting, this time with his doctor, played by Nicole Kidman.

It didn’t make a lot of money, grossing $82 million domestically to Top Gun‘s $176 million.

But who cares?

Almost 30 years later, it’s still the closest fictional representation of NASCAR that’s ever graced the silver screen (we don’t need to mention a certain Will Farrell movie).

Was it completely faithful to stock-car racing?

Of course not, especially since there’s nothin’ stock about a stock car.

Did it have a have bizarre editing that made it look like a race was taking place at Daytona, Darlington and another track at the same time?

You betcha’.

Did the late Bobby Hamilton make his first Cup start driving a car used in the movie?

It’s true! Hamilton qualified third at Phoenix in the No. 51 Chevrolet owned by Hendrick Motorsports and even led five laps.

As absurd as the move could get, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the movie a positive review. Decades later, Days of Thunder had enough authenticity to have an impact on those in the sport today.

“Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?” Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the New York Times in 2010, the movie’s 20th anniversary. “It was interesting to see our sport be put into the mainstream and be a part of that. I think it did a lot for our sport to be honest with you even though the critics weren’t solid on the movie and lot of people had different opinions about it. It got our sport a lot of exposure. The movie was fun to watch, regardless of whether it’s good or not.”

 (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Four years ago, Kurt Busch paid tribute to the movie by racing one of the paint scheme’s from the movie in the July Xfinity race at Daytona.

Then there’s his brother, Kyle.

Kyle Busch goes by the nickname “Rowdy,” which was the name of Rooker’s character in the movie.

Two years ago, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, his crew chief Adam Stevens, Joe Gibbs and Busch’s wife, Samantha, put their best foot forward for a recreation of the Days of Thunder trailer to promote the Crispy line of M&M’s.

Though in this video, Busch assumed the Cole Trickle role.

He’s no Tom Cruise.

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