By George Winkler
2 Minute Read
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LAS VEGAS — Champion’s Week is for celebrating the successes of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and Denny Hamlin said he feels good about his team’s finish, but he’s already looking forward to next year and having a championship-or-bust attitude.
Part of what fans can expect to carry over is intense racing like what was witnessed in the playoffs, including between the No. 11 of Hamlin and the No. 24 of Chase Elliott.
“The way we race each other has been set and will be set for a while,” Hamlin said, when asked if it was time to turn the page on what sparked between the two drivers at Martinsville and continued at Phoenix.
It was Hamlin’s contact with Elliott at Martinsville with Elliott leading the race with three laps to go that led to the No. 24 spinning out and a heated discussion on pit road. Two weeks later at Phoenix, Elliott made contact with Hamlin with 45 laps to go, resulting in a tire rub and ultimately Hamlin’s demise.
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Neither driver made the Championship 4, and Hamlin finished the year sixth in the standings (Elliott was fifth). It was Hamlin’s sixth top-10 finish in the standings in the past seven years. Impressive numbers and a model of consistency, but Hamlin said he’s not ready to rest until a title is achieved.
“I feel real good about our finish, but any year we don’t win a championship, it’s not satisfactory enough,” Hamlin said. “At this point in my career it’s championship or nothing. You need to make the (Championship 4) to do that. We didn’t, but we performed good enough to make it there. Things just didn’t work out.
“We have to do everything we can to get as many playoff points through the regular season as possible next year. Start the year off quicker and solidify ourselves as a guy who wins stages and wins races early in the season.”