Denny Hamlin can only put last week's disappointing night at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the rear view mirror and concentrate on returning to his home track Saturday night for the Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
A blown engine after winning the pole and leading in the early going sidelined Hamlin last Sunday night in the Emory Heath Care 500 at AMS. The setback came on the heels of a rough night in the previous Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and Hamlin wants to leave both memories far behind coming into this weekend.
"Definitely looking to put Atlanta and Bristol behind us and focusing on this weekend in Richmond and then on to the next ten," Hamlin said. "The silver lining is that we had a really good car last weekend in Atlanta, from the first lap after we unloaded we had the best car and that’s something to be proud of.
"Unfortunately, without finishing all that work doesn’t mean a whole lot so we come to Richmond knowing that we need to be good, but we need to finish and the reliability has to be there. I expect we’ll show out best this weekend."
Hamlin has a Chase spot locked up and was hoping to bring momentum into the 10-race championship run, which begins next weekend in New Hampshire. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is still confident about his chances to contend for a title.
"This team takes a lot of pride in making the Chase – we work hard and have great support from everyone back at the shop and from everyone at FedEx," he said. "There is nothing easy about making the Chase each year, you have to be good and be consistent. We have a few more wins than in past years but our consistency has been off a little.
"We want to do more than make the Chase, we want to run for a championship. We don’t want to settle for anything so we’ll need to be at our very best for those ten weeks."
Last week Hamlin said the last two races of the regular season were going to be treated as if the Chase had already begun for his team. Despite his problems in Atlanta, Hamlin continues to follow that philosophy at Richmond.
"Still the case for sure, we need to approach this race like the Chase has started and we will do just that," he said. "We’ll bring our best cars and we will go out looking to win like we do every race. That said, we know that we need to finish with the car we have, we aren’t going to take unnecessary risks, not now."
The Richmond return is always a highlight for the Virginia native who will make his 10th career Cup race at the .75-mile track and hopes to add another win to his record.
"I love coming back here, I love the racing and the race track and seeing friends and family," he said. "I don’t think that will ever wear off. Winning here was something I’ll never forget but I enjoy just being at that track, it means a lot to see so many people wearing your number on their shirt and hats – that support from the fans in Richmond and all around Virginia is something I never take for granted."