Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hamlin earns Sprint Cup pole at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Denny Hamlin thinks he might have come back too soon from an injury — and he's glad he did.

The Joe Gibbs Racing star missed four races after sustaining a compression fracture of a vertebra in his lower back in a last-lap accident March 24 at California. The perennial title contender rushed back hoping to defy the odds and make NASCAR's Chase for the Championship.

But after second- and fourth-place finishes in his second and third starts, Hamlin backslid. He didn't make the Chase, and has struggled mightily.

Might it have been better to give up on the year when he got hurt and focus on his health?

"Maybe," he said Friday at Martinsville Speedway, where he earned the pole for Sunday's Goody's 500 and broke the track record with a lap of 99.595 mph. "(But) the struggles that we're having now will define us later down the road. If we would have just gotten hurt, sat out, got healthy and came back next season, I'm not sure I would have been as mentally tough as I am now."

The Virginia driver, born in Brandon, is 24th in points with one top-10 finish in his past 18 races. But he learned he's not always going to be great.

"That was kind of the fault I had in 2010 in the championship (when he finished second) and even previous years," he said. "One bad race and I would just kind of freak out and it would linger on and on and one with me for weeks."

Sprint Cup standings leader Jimmie Johnson (99.344) qualified second for Sunday as 18 drivers broke his track qualifying record of 98.4 mph, set in June.

Hamlin also earned the pole for today's Kroger 200 truck series race at Martinsville with a lap of 96.489 mph.

Junior deal: The Army National Guard extended its sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. through 2014.

NHRA: Courtney Force, daughter of 15-time series champ John, had the best first-day qualifying run in Funny Car at the Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Adam Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also led.

Hamlin earns Sprint Cup pole at Martinsville 10/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, October 25, 2013 9:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, with Cobb pitching with a purpose

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 12:34: Cash said he has been pleased with Sucre's work and is trying to find playing time for him. ... Cash also said after reading Farquhar's comments about having trouble re-focusing after getting out of a jam and then going back out for a second inning he will factor that in to how he uses him. ... …

  2. St. Petersburg's Sebastien Bourdais vows to return for IndyCar finale

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Sebastien Bourdais was in one of the best race cars he'd ever had, so fast that most of his competitors thought he would win the pole for the Indianapolis 500.

    Sebastien Bourdais does physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana in Indianapolis. Bourdais broke his pelvis, hip and two ribs in an accident during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20. He plans to return home to St. Petersburg soon to continue therapy. [Associated Press]
  3. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  4. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title

    Baseballpreps

    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  5. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”