News & Media

Positive Hamlin gets good vibe with Dover pole

September 29, 2012, Holly Cain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

DOVER, Del. -- So eager to change his karma, reclaim his Zen and thrive in the NASCAR championship cosmos, driver Denny Hamlin recently spoke with a sports psychologist to -- among other things -- help him achieve an attitude adjustment when it comes to race tracks where he traditionally has struggled.

And judging by his pole-winning performance Saturday for the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, there may be something to this power of positive thinking.


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"Instead of doing damage control, I'm going to try to treat this weekend as being on offense, not defense."


As Hamlin summed up on his Twitter account shortly after qualifying: "Holy Cow.''

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The Monster Mile at Dover has been just that to Hamlin: a monster.

His 20.5 average finish there is worst among the 10 tracks that will decide the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It's one of only three ovals in the Chase where he hasn't won.

Hamlin's best Dover finish is fourth (twice, in 2007 and '10) and he has more finishes worse than 20th (five) than top-10s (four).

But, that's all in the past.

"Obviously, the outlook I'm supposed to have is not to look past this weekend and want to get over this weekend,'' Hamlin explained. "It's to optimize this weekend and treat this as one of those places we can win at.

"Instead of doing damage control, I'm going to try to treat this weekend as being on offense, not defense.''

Seeking out a sports psychologist is nothing new in racing. Kurt Busch has seen one and other drivers have, but not spoken so publicly.

While reigning Cup champion Tony Stewart insisted this weekend, "I don't get into that stuff, ''many of Hamlin's competitors believe there is great benefit to cultivating the right mind-set.

"We all have those tracks that we don't like or that don't like us,'' said five-time champ Jimmie Johnson. "But, believe me, for years and years I went to Bristol telling myself I loved it. And I didn't love it until I won there; the same with Sonoma.

"So, until you go to that track and prove to yourself that you run well there, it's just a lot of positive thinking; which does have its benefits.

"For me, personally, until I've gone to those tracks and I've executed and I come back the next year and walk in the gate, that's when the feeling is truly different. And you're like, 'Wow.' I am good here. I can get the job done here."

For NASCAR newcomer Danica Patrick, that extends beyond developing a fondness for certain tracks. She has developed her own philosophy in mind over matter.

"Well I do believe in faking it until you believe it,'' Patrick said Friday. "I encourage everyone to try it. If you just smile and are happy and joke, even if you are out of control. ... eventually at some point that day you will be happy.

"It's common sense that if you say you don't like something, it's not going to go as well. I'm just trying to apply [positive thinking] every weekend. It's plenty of times I've said I hate qualifying, but I know that's not a positive thing. I need to find the good in it and the positive attitude will translate into better results, I think.''

That certainly seems to be the case for Hamlin -- at least so far.

"Obviously, from a confidence standpoint, when you get the pole it's a testament to the equipment you have -- from the cars to the motors to the guys who are putting the bodies on these cars,'' Hamlin said.

"I think right now we have everything rolling and that part of it is giving me a ton of confidence.''