Raceday: Talladega

It's not often that an 18th place finish is something to cheer about, but Denny Hamlin will take last week's run at Kansas Speedway.

After spinning out and battling an ill-handling car with a severe vibration, Hamlin's Top 20 finish was just fine and actually moved him up a spot in the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" standings.

"We probably wouldn’t have planned it that way, but to go through all that we did at Kansas and leave there second place in the 'Chase' standings actually adds up to a pretty good day for this FedEx team,” said Hamlin.

“The loose wheel that put us a lap down really hurt us and potentially took a top-10 finish away. It seems like the story of this 'Chase' is who is having bad luck and whether or not they are able to get through it so maybe Kansas was our week and it’s behind us."

But that was last week. This week brings another challenge - Talladega Superspeedway.

"Of course, anything can happen at Talladega," Hamlin said.

The rookie will be making only his second career NEXTEL Cup Series start at Talladega in Sunday's UAW-Ford 500. He finished 22nd at the Alabama speedplant back in May.

Although he's had only one Cup start at Talladega, Hamlin has already adopted a veteran's view of the track and how to approach Sunday's race.

"I think if you asked the guys running in the 'Chase' most of them would say this is the wild card race on the schedule," Hamlin said. "It’s no secret that in the restrictor plate races, with the speed and as close as we run to each other, that there is always potential for trouble. It will come down to a having a car that will handle in the draft and a little bit of luck this weekend. You do what you can to avoid that trouble and save your car but it’s not always in your control."

Hamlin is only 69 points behind series leader Jeff Burton in the "Chase" standings. But despite being in the middle of the title race in only his first full year on the job, Hamlin is doing his best to keep things in perspective.

"So far we have been able to approach this 'Chase' as we would have without being the top ten and it has worked for us," he said. "It’s hard to ignore all of the extra attention and the amount of interest in this FedEx team now that we are in the 'Chase' but we’re all handling it well."

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