Fired up Denny Hamlin: ‘I love the feeling of just proving people wrong’


PHOENIX — Saying he thrives in chaos, Denny Hamlin was full throttle during Thursday’s Championship 4 Media Day, describing his displeasure with Alex Bowman and how that will help fuel him in Sunday’s title race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

While Hamlin’s championship foes were calm (Chase Elliott), laid back (Kyle Larson) and jovial (Martin Truex Jr.), Hamlin was outspoken and forceful.

It showed how far Hamlin has come from his first championship race experience. Back in 2010, he was seated on a stage between Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. Both drivers needled the wide-eyed Hamlin that day, who later lost the title that weekend.

Thursday, drivers were at their own stations speaking to the media. Hamlin had the largest crowd for much of the 50-minute session.

He explained why he was so upset with Bowman spinning him out of the lead in the final laps last weekend at Martinsville.

“I really wanted to make a pretty strong statement at Martinsville,” Hamlin said. “Starting in the back, going back to the back again, and driving all the way to the front and winning that race would be like the old foot on the throat heading into this weekend.

“I feel that momentum was taken from us. The momentum in my head swings back around to now I’m ultra-motivated. I love the feeling of just proving people wrong.”

Asked if he was still mad at Bowman, Hamlin said:

“I am because it’s just a lack of situational awareness, and if the roles were reversed, that team would be as pissed off as I was that their season was nearly taken away because of someone’s irresponsibility.”

Hamlin expressed his displeasure after the race by calling Bowman a hack in his interview on NBC. A few hours later, Bowman was selling T-shirts with that phrase on it. Hamlin’s response to the shirt?

“They’re going to thrive off any kind of bump or hit that they can get during that time,” he said. “I think the drivers, in general in our series, lack originality, so I’m glad I could help with that.”

Hamlin, who is in his 16th full-time Cup season, lamented how the way he learned how to drive is fading away in NASCAR.

“I feel like I’m just more of a purist than most,” he said. “Again, that’s what fires me up so much about stuff like last week or even Indy (when he was spun by Chase Briscoe for the lead in the final laps). It’s like, ‘Man, we didn’t even have a chance to, like, battle. Let’s go toe-to-toe, two drivers, battle for a race win.’

“In today’s world, people will just accept getting knocked out of the way. People accept it now. We used to show highlights of the bump-and-run with Rusty (Wallace) and Jeff Gordon. Now, no one gives a (expletive). It’s just part of normal, everyday racing.

“The craft of actually being good at technique and passing and working someone over, that craft has kind of just gone away. It’s not for good or bad. Everyone can race their own particular way, but it’s just a different certainly mentality when you look at what’s coming from the Truck Series, on up to Xfinity, and now it’s making its way all the way up to Cup. It’s a different mentality.”

He went on to say: “My breed, like (Kevin) Harvick’s breed, is a dying breed. We understand that. But we’re not going to change just because other people want us to.”

While his other title contenders are not embroiled in controversy, Hamlin welcomed it Thursday. He was asked how he can not let it distract him.

“How do I get up every morning and take my kids to school at 7:30?” Hamlin said. “How do I go to 23XI (Racing) and work for a couple days in the middle of the week during a playoff run? I live in chaos. My life is chaos. I thrive under chaos.

“Honestly, you can ask Kyle (Larson). The more (expletive) is stirred up around me, the more I come at it. I don’t mind things like that.”

Asked if he really embraced that, Hamlin said: “Absolutely. To me, it’s fuel. Like, I have so much fuel in my tank right now from just motivation. There’s a lot of motivation there.”

To prove it, he noted his inability to win a championship. While he has 46 Cup wins and three Daytona 500s, he’s never won a series title. Junior Johnson is the only driver in NASCAR history with more wins (50) than Hamlin and doesn’t have a series title.

“Everyone’s go-to is, ‘You haven’t won a championship,’” Hamlin said. “There’s nothing else they can say. There’s just nothing else they can say.

“To me, I’m so motivated to go out there and show ’em what’s up. I think it’s fuel for me. It really is fuel for me. People don’t get in my head in a negative way. I turn it into positives, into motivation.

“Some people like to go in a hole and hide from it. I do not. I go at it head on. Anyone who’s around me knows, a lot of you in the media who have followed my career, when things go haywire or (expletive) hits the fan, I usually come out swinging.

“We will come out swinging again.”

Justin Haley replaces Kyle Busch in Kaulig car for Xfinity race


Justin Haley will drive Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 car in Monday morning’s scheduled NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Haley replaces Cup Series regular Kyle Busch, who was scheduled to drive for Kaulig in the 300-miler. The race was postponed from Saturday to Monday because of weather, giving NASCAR a 900-mile doubleheader at the track.

Busch decided to concentrate on the Coca-Cola 600 Cup race, scheduled for a  3 p.m. start.

Haley also will race in the 600.

Ty Gibbs is scheduled to run in both races.

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”