The Norman Transcript

National Sports

February 23, 2014

Hamlin driving for Daytona sweep

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Hamlin almost couldn’t help himself at the start of his Daytona 500 qualifying race, when his anxiously tried to charge to the front and shake out all the cobwebs and frustration from his injury-plagued season a year ago.

The move backfired, he found himself mired in traffic and after a deep breath to regroup, used a different game-plan to get to the front.

It was a valuable lesson in patience, one he’ll need Sunday when he tries to become the first driver at Daytona International Speedway to sweep Speedweeks. He opened Daytona with a win in the exhibition Sprint Unlimited and in the second of two 150-mile qualifying races, but those races are only confidence-boosters.

The big daddy is the season-opening Daytona 500, and no driver has ever completed the trifecta.

Oh, what a prize that would be for Hamlin, who sat out five races last season with a fractured vertebra then gamely drove through the pain for the final six months in a failed attempt to salvage his year.

“I think the biggest challenge for myself is keeping the reins back for 400 miles, 450 miles,” he said. “Obviously, when you go out here and you perform the way we have over these last few races, it’s hard not to just want to go out there, charge out there, show that you’re still on top and still the best right on lap one. It’s going to be battling those inner demons of wanting to go out there, lead laps, putting yourself in a safe position, but also being conservative and making sure you’re there at the end of the day.”

This is a familiar act at Daytona, where surprise winners often steal the win and heartbreak is the norm. The late Dale Earnhardt won 34 races at Daytona but didn’t win his only Daytona 500 until his 20th try. Trevor Bayne? He won his Daytona 500 debut at the expense of three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who is 0-for-15 and has lost the race in spectacular fashion. He was passed by Ryan Newman on the last lap in 2008, didn’t get the push he needed on the final restart when Bayne won in 2011 and played second-fiddle to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004.

Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
National Sports
  • Luke Donald shoots 66, takes lead at RBC Heritage

    HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Luke Donald believes he’s got the right game on the right course — and is ready to make up for so many near-misses at the RBC Heritage. Donald had an eagle and six birdies to shoot 66 on Saturday and take a ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Nets’ experience trumps Raptors in Game 1

    TORONTO — The Brooklyn Nets made a case for the important of playoff experience in their opening victory over the Toronto Raptors....

    April 20, 2014

  • Heat open quest for another title

    MIAMI — If the Miami Heat are going to watch their season and reign atop the NBA end at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats, then fates of the franchises will have to change in a hurry....

    April 20, 2014

  • Warriors beat Clippers, 109-105, in playoff opener

    LOS ANGELES — Klay Thompson scored 22 points, David Lee added 20 and the Golden State Warriors got Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in foul trouble to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-105 on Saturday in their playoff opener....

    April 20, 2014

  • Cardinals edge Nationals, 4-3

    WASHINGTON — Lance Lynn was sharper than he had had been all season, which made it all the more frustrating for him when he failed to make it out of the sixth inning....

    April 20, 2014

  • Teague leads Hawks past top-seeded Pacers in Game 1

    INDIANAPOLIS — Atlanta’s Jeff Teague demolished the Pacers’ grand playoff plan. As his teammates set up around the 3-point line, Teague simply blew through open lanes to the basket repeatedly. The Pacers didn’t have an answer....

    April 20, 2014

  • Stars limp home down 2-1

    DALLAS — Tyler Seguin’s week away from Dallas felt a little longer, probably because it included a pair of one-goal losses at Anaheim to start a first-round playoff series....

    April 20, 2014

  • Sooners advance to Super Six

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Oklahoma, Georgia and LSU advanced to the Super Six of the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships....

    April 19, 2014

  • Can the Heat flip the switch?

    MIAMI — LeBron James was walking down the hallway that the Miami Heat call “Championship Alley” a few minutes after last season’s NBA Finals, when he decided the time was right to send a message. It wasn’t for his fans....

    April 19, 2014

  • No April, May or June Madness in NBA

    AP National Writer ATLANTA — If the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks were in any other sport, they might have a glimmer of hope for winning a championship. The NBA? No way....

    April 19, 2014