- Denny Hamlin
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We saved the best for last at Las Vegas.
We were a third-place car at the end and were running top-5 times most of the day. But because we were playing the conservative strategy of taking tires, tires, tires every single stop that puts you back in the pack.
So we never had a chance to show what we had until the end.
We may not have gotten that chance had I won a little disagreement with my crew chief, Mike Ford, before the last stop. I thought that maybe we should pit and take tires because most of the guys behind me probably were.
Mike wanted to stay out for position. That's why Mike is the crew chief, and it worked out the best.
We don't disagree that often. Sometimes I question things, but in the back of my mind I know he knows what he's doing. I let him pretty much handle everything, but I do question things more now that I've got a year behind me.
I'm learning a little more about cars setup-wise. I'm able to give a little more input and he's probably listening to what I say a little more.
Most of the conversations are pretty calm. Mike stays calm all the time. I'm fairly laid-back myself.
But if I get in the back of the pack where I'm battling cars I don't want to be racing I can get frustrated real easy. I kind of let it get the best of me sometimes. Mike is always there to calm me down.
And when he sets out to do something he doesn't usually let anybody change his mind. As a driver you have to let your pride go. I think that's why he wanted to go to a young driver like me.
He's worked with older guys like Bill Elliott and Dale Jarrett. In our conversations he talks about how they were set in their ways, so he couldn't always do things the way he wanted to do them.
He was happy to get with me because he knew I was going to be open minded and let him do his job.
It's good to be going to Atlanta, to a normal racetrack where the tires do fall off and matter. That wasn't the case with the hard tires we had at Vegas, as my teammate Tony Stewart let everybody know with his comments about Goodyear.
All I said about it was I agree with Tony. I don't need to put myself out there like he does. I let him take all the fun.
It's nice to have a teammate who is outspoken. I know any concerns he has, he'll voice them. And since I'm usually feeling the same thing he is because our setups are so similar, it helps both of us.
But I do feel a little more comfortable voicing my opinion this year. We had an issue in the Busch race in Mexico City where I talked to series director Joe Balash about a few things just to be clear on the rules.
I probably wouldn't have done that last year, but I need more time and experience before I get like Tony.
Atlanta is a great track because you can run all over the place, high, low and in the middle. It's the first track we've gone to this season where you're able to do that.
It's also one of those tracks where if your car is not running great you can do something to help it.
It's good to be back in the top 10 (eighth) as well. We haven't gotten a lot of coverage yet. Things have been very quiet. But all three of our finishes have been better than what they were last year, so I'm pretty confident in where we're going.
We're still not as strong as we were at the end of last season in the Chase. We've been good, but we've got to be more competitive early in the race. I like saving the best for last, but when you're back in the pack most of the day you can get caught up in an accident.
We've been lucky that hasn't happened yet.
We'll definitely be more rested this weekend after three long trips to California, Mexico and Las Vegas. I look forward to not having to fly three or four hours.
I've been champing at the bit to get out on the lake this week with the nice weather. Of course, since my house isn't done I have to watch everybody else have a good time.
I've just been doing what I normally do, working out every morning for a good two to two and a half hours. Then I usually take a mid-afternoon nap for about two hours and get ready to go for the evening.
It's a good plan to be on when the schedule allows it.
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 with the help of writer David Newton.
It's good to be Denny Hamlin. He writes in his diary he's top-10 in points, gets along with his crew chief and lets teammate Tony Stewart do most of the talking.