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July 13, 2024
NASCAR at Chicago: Hamlin’s Remarkable Saturday Marks His “Single Best Day at the Track

Despite Hamlin’s very productive career, road courses have never been his strong suit. His lone victory – he has 49 in his career – came at Watkins Glen in 2016.

After out-duelling three-time Australian Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen and Tyler Reddick in the final round of qualifying, Hamlin won the pole for Sunday’s first street course race in the 75-year history of the Cup series.

It was also his second consecutive pole on a road/street course after he started first earlier this month at Sonoma Raceway, led 33 laps but wrecked out late in the race while trying to run down eventual winner Martin Truex Jr.

Saturday’s performance was even more impressive considering none of Hamlin’s fellow competitors had any previous experience on the 2.2-mile, 12-turn Chicago course, which was only completed on Friday.

Even rain early in the day, which forced Xfinity Series teams to use wet weather tires, didn’t dampen Hamlin’s enthusiasm for his prospects.

“Certainly, we were very optimistic about today. I certainly didn’t like waking up to rain. I thought that could’ve really changed things for me quite a bit, and hopefully, it does not rain (on Sunday),” Hamlin said.

“It was just a great day. Probably my single best day at the racetrack in all of my career for sure.”

Hamlin is seventh in the standings ahead of the Chicago race

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Asked what would lead him to make such a judgment, Hamlin said, “Just the overall performance of our team today. From lap one of practice to the last lap of qualifying just having been strong on a track – that is really tough.

“Everyone had to learn it at the same rate of speed. No one has got a veteran advantage at this type of race track. So, it’s just a proud moment for our team to be able to come here on equal footing with everyone and be able to perform as well as we did.”

Hamlin also revelled in the positive vibe surrounding Saturday’s activities in the Grant Park area of downtown Chicago.

Admittedly a sceptic about NASCAR’s decision to try a street race, Hamlin said he has quickly warmed to the experience.

“When you see the fans that are walking around here on a Saturday – their excitement of just seeing a NASCAR race car up close and taking pictures. It’s kind of like this is what we’re supposed to do here,” he said.

“I mentioned on (my) podcast last week, the sooner we just kind of understand the gravity of the event and not get caught up too much in the on-track stuff I think the better off we’re going to be.”

Rain could well be back in the picture for Sunday’s race and conditions with an entire field of cars on the track at the same time could well produce unexpected consequences.

However, Hamlin believes his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is capable of even better results on Sunday.

“I’ve never felt like I’ve had more speed in reserve than what I did today. I just knew that I can go get that. Just areas I can go and get that,” he explained. “There are risks with that.

“I think in the race I’m just going to have to back it down slightly to take away 20 to 30% of risk. You’re going to have to be a half-second slower a lap, but you’re going to take away the risk of making a huge mistake.

“And I feel like when you have a car that’s as fast as mine, I’m able to back that up and still run a fast enough pace.”

Notwithstanding Hamlin’s extremely useful vocation, street courses have never been an area of strength for him. His solitary triumph – he has 49 in his profession – came at Watkins Glen in 2016.

After out-dueling three-time Australian Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen and Tyler Reddick in the last round of qualifying, Hamlin won the post for Sunday’s most memorable road course race in the 75-year history of the Cup series.

It was likewise his second sequential shaft on a street/road course after he began first recently at Sonoma Raceway, drove 33 laps however destroyed out late in the race while attempting to run down possible victor Martin Truex Jr.

Saturday’s presentation was considerably more great thinking about none of Hamlin’s kindred rivals had any past experience on the 2.2-mile, 12-turn Chicago course, which was just finished on Friday.

Indeed, even downpour promptly in the day, which constrained Xfinity Series groups to utilize wet weather conditions tires, didn’t hose Hamlin’s excitement for his possibilities.

“Surely, we were extremely hopeful about today. I surely could have done without awakening to rain. I felt that might have truly changed things for me a lot, and ideally, it doesn’t rain (on Sunday),” Hamlin said.

“It was only an extraordinary day. Presumably my single greatest day at the course in all of my profession without a doubt.”

Hamlin is seventh in the standings in front of the Chicago race

Photograph by: Nigel Kinrade/NKP/Motorsport Pictures

Asked what might lead him to make such a judgment, Hamlin said, “Only the general execution of our group today. From lap one of training to the last lap of qualifying simply having serious areas of strength for been a track – that is truly extreme.

“Everybody needed to learn it at a similar pace. Nobody has a veteran benefit at this kind of race track. Thus, it’s simply a pleased second for our group to have the option to come here on fair terms with everybody and have the option to proceed as well as we did.”

Hamlin additionally delighted in the uplifting tone encompassing Saturday’s exercises in the Award Park area of downtown Chicago.

In fact a cynic about NASCAR’s choice to attempt a road race, Hamlin said he has in short order warmed to the experience.

“At the point when you see the fans that are strolling around here on a Saturday – their energy of simply seeing a NASCAR race vehicle very close and taking pictures. This is how things have is we should do here,” he said.

“I referenced on (my) digital broadcast last week, the sooner we only sort of grasp the gravity of the occasion and not get up to speed a lot in the on target stuff I think the good we will be.”

Downpour could well be back in the image for Sunday’s race and conditions with a whole field of vehicles on the track simultaneously could well deliver startling outcomes.

In any case, Hamlin trusts his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Hustling Toyota is prepared to do far and away superior outcomes on Sunday.

“I’ve never felt like I’ve had more speed for possible later use than what I did today. I recently realize that I can go get that. Just regions I can proceed to get that,” he made sense of. “There are takes a chance with that.

“I think in the race I’m about to need to back it down somewhat to remove 20 to 30% of chance. You must be a half-second more slow a lap, yet you will remove the gamble of committing a gigantic error.

“Furthermore, I feel like when you have a vehicle that is basically as quick as mine, I’m ready to back that up regardless run a quickly enough speed.”

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