Hamlin Half Satisfied

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin's second-place finish in the Daytona 500 wasn't enough to make him completely happy. (Photo: Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Denny Hamlin admitted he felt conflicted. A stretch that included a victory in the Sprint Unlimited and in his qualifying race this week ended with a runner-up finish in Sunday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500.

It’s a great start to the season for any driver, let alone one trying to forget last year’s injury-plagued year. But losing the chance to become the first driver to sweep the Sprint Cup events during Speedweeks, left him hollow.

“I’m so 50-50 on whether I’m pissed off or I’m happy, I just don’t know,’’ said Hamlin, whose best previous finish in this race was fourth in 2012. “Any other year I probably would have been like jumping up and down. We can hardly finish these races much less have a shot at a victory. I felt like our car wasn’t as strong as the week progressed. The competition definitely caught up.’’

Hamlin’s tough luck in restrictor-place races almost defines a part of him. Sunday’s finish was only his third top-10 finish in 17 Cup starts at Daytona International Speedway.

Maybe he could have done better had it not been for the rain, which delayed the race 6 hours and 21 minutes after the 38th lap.

Even with a cover on the car, the heavy rains soaked his radio and he didn’t have communication with his team for about the first 50 laps back after the race restated at night. When the radio dried, he regained communication. It quit working in the final 15 minutes, leaving him handicapped against the field.

Hamlin said he was not able “to drive to my ability” because of radio problems that let him without contact with his team and spotter.

“I was being conservative trying to spot for myself,’’ he said. “It’ not a way to race. Track position was so important. I couldn’t come in for a radio change when it went dead.’’

Even without the communication, he worked his way toward the front but race winner Dale Earnhardt was masterful at keeping both lines of cars behind him. That allowed Earnhardt to score his second Daytona 500 victory and leave Hamlin to wonder what if.

While Hamlin lamented his car’s ability as the week progressed, third-place finisher Brad Keselowski said he saw a change in Hamlin’s car during race after the rain delay.

Hamlin was strong early before relinquishing the lead to get behind a car and remove trash on his front grille.

“I did think the halfway part of the race, a bunch of other cars picked up speed for whatever reason, I’m not sure why,’’ Keselowski said. “The back half of the field seemed to really adjust on their cars and make gains. I thought before there was a little more of a separation especially in the sun. It would have been interesting to see how the race would have played out in those circumstances.’’

It didn’t work out for Hamlin. Frustrated, he hoped the sun would bring a better feeling.

“I’ll be happy (Monday),’’ Hamlin said.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Denny Hamlin

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