LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Denny Hamlin has had the fastest car in New Hampshire all weekend during practice for the second race in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup.
He's moved pretty quickly in reverse, too.
Shortly after backtracking from a tweet in which he seemed to guarantee a victory, Hamlin went out for qualifying with the wrong pressure in his tires. Although that left him 32nd in Sunday's starting grid, Hamlin tried to sound positive about the second gaffe by his Joe Gibbs Racing crew in the first two weeks of the Chase.
"If there was nothing wrong, then I would really be shaking my head," he said. "At least we identified what the problem was."
Tied with Brad Keselowski for the season victory lead with four, Hamlin is fourth in the points race after running out of gas and finishing 16th because his gas man failed to fill up the tank on the final pit stop in the Chase opener in Chicago. Hamlin brushed off the error, saying on Twitter: "This is week 1 of 10. We will win next week."
The tweet was interpreted as a bold guarantee of victory; one reporter compared it to Babe Ruth "calling his shot." But Hamlin said he was actually just trying to put the mistake behind him and look forward.
"I feel like I can go win each and every one of them. Really it's nothing more than that," he said. "People were just taking it a little further than that, but I'm racing — doing the best I can — and that's all I'm going to do."
Hamlin has done pretty well in New Hampshire, winning in 2007 and finishing in the top three in four of the previous six races. In July, he led 150 laps but a miscommunication with crew chief Darian Grubb on the final pit stop over whether to change two tires or four left him mired him deep in traffic.
Still, he made his way back to the front of the field before finishing second to Kasey Kahne.
"He was really strong here in July," said Jimmie Johnson, who is second in the points race and starting 20th on Sunday. "I've kind of put him down as the favorite."