Hangin' with Hamlin: A favorite on tap

Denny Hamlin likes to race most any weekend. He writes in his diary he especially likes going to Mexico City, where he's out to defend last season's win on Sunday.

Updated: March 2, 2007, 12:40 PM ET
By Denny Hamlin | Special to ESPN.com

The Busch Series race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City is one of my favorite events of the year even if it means giving up a rare off-weekend to go there.

Denny Hamlin
Otherimages/WireImage.com Denny Hamlin had a heck of a time making it to Victory Lane past avid fans after winning in Mexico last season.

I love the atmosphere. I'm a huge fan of the bullhorns. And I love Mexican food.

The fans definitely want to get a piece of you. It's just amazing to see from the first year to the second how many locals recognize the Americans. They want to talk to you and shake your hand.

There were so many of them after I won last year that it was tough getting to Victory Lane.

I wish I knew what some of them were saying to me. I understand nothing in Spanish. Not one word. There were a lot of interviews I did with a translator. That's as close as I came.

We knew we were going to win that race a month in advance. We tested and were really strong. That was our race to win. We went there assuming that and it just came through for us.

I've never had that situation before. When we went out on the track for the first hour and a half we were like a second and a half faster than anybody else. I thought, "Man, we ought to do pretty good here."

Confidence goes a long way, but I really had some good stuff under me. My Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, J.J. Yeley, ran third. So we really just had it together as a team.

I got the same kind of feeling after I won the first race at Pocono and we went back there the second time. When you feel comfortable on a racetrack and know a racetrack you tend to run good there.

It also puts a little more pressure on you when you have a car that strong. You find yourself driving not to screw up, knowing if you don't make any bad decisions it's yours to lose.

When you're scratching to find speed you're just trying to do anything you can. It definitely puts the vice grips on you not to make mistakes when you are as good as we were last year.

The best part about the trip to Mexico is I love Mexican food. To get authentic Mexican food, to go different places and see what they have, makes the trip all the more fun.

There is one place right across from the hotel where we stay. I'm not sure of the name, but I'm sure it's going to be packed again. It's the best Mexican food I've ever had.

I usually get the beef fajitas and enchiladas. It's not the best thing for me on the new weight-loss program I've been on, but one weekend won't hurt me.

It's one of the most populous cities in the world and you understand that when you fly in and see houses on top of houses. It's amazing to see that many people live in such a small area. The traffic is a whole other subject.

There's really nothing like it I can compare it to. It's nothing like [what] I experienced growing up in Virginia.

You hear a lot about the dangers of the city, but I didn't experience anything like that at all. The only way I was going to get into trouble was to take out one of the top Mexican drivers like Kyle Busch did to Michel Jourdain Jr. last year.

I remember that because I was running second when they got tangled. I was like, "Man, he's going to have a tough time getting out of here."

It's good the locals get in the race because they bring a lot of fans to the track.

I haven't done much sightseeing in Mexico City. I stay in the hotel more than I would in any other city. But there are a few places within walking distance, little bars and whatnot, that I'm sure I'll visit.

People don't recognize me down there like they do here. But you never know, maybe some of my commercials are making it down there. Winning last year's race might make me more familiar, too.

It's really a good weekend to take it easy. Everything is kind of laid-back. It's to me almost like an exhibition race.

I know a lot of drivers like having this weekend off. If it was warm outside and people were out on the lake, I'd probably be wishing I had the weekend off.

But since it is cold, I might as well be racing.

Denny Hamlin is the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet. A native of Chesterfield, Va., Hamlin will share his weekly thoughts on and off the track with ESPN.com readers through writer David Newton.

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