Hamlin, Logano Prep for Season-Ending Stretches with Kentucky Speedway Test
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano continued their preparations for the closing stretches of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series seasons during a Kentucky Speedway test session today.
Hamlin starts the week 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings and 380 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson with five races remaining on the schedule. Hamlin hopes to better his Chase for the Sprint Cup-best ninth-place finish from the Sept. 14 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where he has generated four straight top-10 finishes including a March 30 victory this season.
"It's going to be a track that's somewhat of a wild card because you have some guys in the Chase that don't particularly run well at Martinsville and some guys that do. It's a track we always look at that we can make up a few points.
"Jimmie (Johnson) is the leader and it's going to be hard because he runs really well there, but we can obviously gain on some guys that are in front of us right now. We have some good tracks coming up for us for sure," Hamlin said.
The Virginia native rebounded from his well-publicized vicious Oct. 5 crash at Talladega Superspeedway that resulted in a brief hospital stay last week with a 16th-place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway Oct. 11.
"It's amazing to think about how hard that (Talladega) hit was. I was running the bottom when the tire went. I crossed three lanes from the bottom of the track all the way to the top and into the wall. I had maybe a second to react, and all I could do was get on the brake and hold on tight. The car held up really well, and I have a definite appreciation for the SAFER barriers.
"NASCAR is making big gains in terms of safety and it's really paying off. This new car is much safer than the previous car, and I think anything you can do to make this sport safer is a step in the right direction," he added.
Logano, the 18-year-old who notched his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win June 14 in a 300-mile Kentucky Speedway tilt, continued a rigorous test schedule that recently included time in the 2009 Nationwide Series car.
He turned in a 14th-place finish in the Oct. 10 Nationwide Series event at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but has registered three top-10 finishes in his last five starts on the developmental circuit.
Logano led 32 laps and drove among the top three in the Lowe's field before his No. 20 car made contact with the retaining wall between Turns 3 and 4 while attempting a high-line pass on Lap 103.
"Man, that (Lowe's race) turned out to be one of the longest nights of my life. It was tough trying to come back with a broken racecar. It looked really good for us early on. I started out pretty tight, but then I was able to get in the lead and stay there for a lot of laps.
"Then we tried to loosen it up a bit and went a little too far, so we fell back on the next restart. We had a good handle on where we wanted to go from there, then, all of a sudden, I went outside to pass the No. 10 (driven by Dave Blaney) and I have no idea what happened. It felt like a big gust of wind took the nose right up into the wall or something. After that, we just tried the best we could," Logano said.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
ESPN.com and joegibbsracing.com contributed to this story
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