Hangin' with Hamlin: Looking forward to Vegas

Challenging Juan Pablo Montoya for the win at Mexico City was going to be a long shot. Vegas could be a crap shoot, writes Denny Hamlin in his diary.

Updated: March 8, 2007, 7:50 PM ET
By Denny Hamlin | Special to ESPN.com

Looking back at the Busch Series race in Mexico City last weekend I didn't see where we could have finished better than second to Juan Pablo Montoya without wrecking him.

Yeah, if we had a little bit better car maybe we could have given him a run for it, but if I had beaten him I might have had trouble getting out of Mexico alive. Hahahaha. No, not really.

Anything short of getting a better restart than we got on the last one we did all we could.

Our best chance came after a restart with about five laps to go. I had pretty good position going through the "esses" when there was a crash behind us to bring out the caution.

Had I known the crash was going to happen right away I might have been more on top of it and tried to make the pass.

But had I gotten him there he would have been on my bumper on the next restart. And we saw how it went in Turn 1 before when he wrecked teammate Scott Pruett to take the lead. I kind of felt safer in the spot I was.

I went back and looked at the incident he had with Pruett again. It looked like he just kind of put himself in a box where he had to either run off the course or run into a teammate. He chose the latter.

When you make that split-second decision that you're going to go in there hard, you put yourself in a box. He just couldn't get out of it.

It's kind of unspoken at Joe Gibbs Racing that we don't take a teammate out. Tony Stewart and J.J. Yeley, we don't need to really tell each other that. We just know. Everyone does.

Tony came up to J.J. and me last year after one of the races he saw us racing too hard. He sat both of us down and said you just don't do that.

Other than that one instance we pretty much respect each other. When we're around each other, one will let the other go, and that's the way it always has been.

It's important to have respect in the garage, but it's really important to have the respect of your teammate. You've got very few people on your side when you're out there, so you don't want to do anything to make them mad.

I'm ready to get back to the Nextel Cup car in Las Vegas. I'm looking forward the food in Vegas and, of course. I like the casinos.

I've toned down my gambling habits the last year or so, though. I'm in the process of working on this new house and I can't afford to lose anything right now.

When I do go to the casino I usually play craps. I've actually done pretty well playing it.

But for the most part I treat Vegas like a normal race weekend. The one thing that's different is we're staying at the Bellagio instead of a motorcoach.

My girlfriend has always been bugging me about getting a room facing the water show. We're big fans of the movies "Ocean 11" and "Ocean 12."

I like to take my crew out as much as I can and Vegas is a good opportunity because we stay at the same hotel. We had a lot of fun with that last year.

But when we're at the track it is all business. There are no distractions other than the Air Force base that is right near the track. We're constantly watching stealth bombers go right over the top of us.

It's going to be interesting to see with the new banking and surface if they have multiple grooves for racing. Typically a new track takes a while for a second groove to come in, but I noticed at testing guys were moving up and finding a high groove.

We're not big fans of the harder left-front tire they're bringing. We like a tire that falls off and gets real slow. The problem is they don't hold up.

Joe Gibbs Racing typically has been conservative with our setup with tires. We really don't have a whole lot of issues. I guess they had to go to the harder tires because a lot of teams were blowing them during tests.

It should be a pretty good race, probably better than people expect.

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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