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Hamlin had Hokies on his mind

Hamlin had Hokies on his mind

Hamlin had Hokies on his mind
Sun, Apr 22, 2007
By Associated Press

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Denny Hamlin had more than NASCAR Nextel Cup points on his mind in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 on Saturday night.

Hamlin, from Chesterfield, Va., wanted to win the race to pay tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre.
Hamlin led for 70 laps but finished third after being penalized for speeding on pit road. That set him back to 30th place. Hamlin charged back toward the front but was not able to catch race winner Jeff Gordon or runner-up Tony Stewart.

''That's probably half of the reason why I'm as upset as I am about it,'' Hamlin said. ''It was a big week for Virginia. Something had to happen up there to kind of lift everyone's spirits. I would've loved to bring that trophy back home this week, but it's not going to happen.

''If I had that trophy, it would definitely be in Virginia Tech's hands before the end of the week. But unfortunately, it's not mine, it's Jeff's.''

Hamlin said he was stunned when he was told by race officials that he had been caught speeding. He didn't dispute the call but still wondered if officials were kidding.

''By the rules, it's black and white,'' he said. ''I asked if they were serious. Evidently, they were.''

DESERT JINX?: For the second year in a row, Jamie McMurray had a frustrating race in Phoenix.

McMurray, who crashed last November, woke with a stomach ache Saturday morning.

Early in the race, he dropped from seventh to 21st after an air gun malfunctioned during a pit stop. And on lap 57 he had to pull back into the pits to have debris removed from his radiator, dropping him off the lead lap.

McMurray never recovered, finishing a lap down in 23rd.

Next time, Kyle Busch will check with his team before leaving the track.

After crashing at Texas Motor Speedway last Sunday, Busch left the track and headed to the airport. He didn't realize his crew was repairing his Chevy. Dale Earnhardt Jr. jumped in the car and finished the race, earning Busch three NASCAR Nextel Cup points.

Busch and crew chief Alan Gustafson met this week to establish crash procedures for the team.

''We have something in place now to try and help us out that will make it easier with crash procedures,'' Busch said. ''Alan has his crash procedures for him and the team guys built, but there has never been one built where the driver is a part of that.

''The biggest thing I learned was there has to be more communication, not only from the team to me but from myself. I didn't go to the team and ask if we were going to get back out. That is partially my problem, but we want to make sure we have it straightened out for the future.''

Busch had a chance to test the procedures Friday night, when he crashed in the Busch Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. This time, the car couldn't be fixed and Busch wound up finishing 37th.

GIBBS NOT WORRIED ABOUT STEWART: J.D. Gibbs wasn't surprised to hear Tony Stewart's comments that he was considering retiring after the 2009 season.

Stewart said he was ''ready to retire'' after a frustrating race at Texas Motor Speedway last Sunday. He has since said he'll honor his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, which expires after the 2009 season.

Gibbs, the president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said Saturday that Stewart's remarks did not set off alarms within the team.

''We all get fed up on occasion and want to walk away,'' said Gibbs, son of team owner Joe Gibbs, also the coach of the NFL Washington Redskins.

''If 2 1/2 years from now he decides to step away, that would be his choice,'' J.D. Gibbs said. ''But that's a long time from now. A lot can happen.''

BRAKE PADS: Jeff Gordon, the eventual winner, had his helmet replaced moments before the race began. Gordon's original helmet had radio problems, and a crew member brought another out to Gordon's car in the pole position. ... Heralded rookie Juan Pablo Montoya wasn't a factor, finishing 33rd. In lap 295, he brushed the wall. ''Honestly, as the race went on we got slower and slower and slower and slower,'' the former Formula One star said. ... Kevin Harvick won both races at Phoenix last year. He led for 52 laps on Saturday before finishing 10th. ... Gordon was the first driver to win from the pole in 22 races at Phoenix.

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