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NASCAR’s Hamlin feels at home at The Greenbrier

By Ryan Pritt, Staff writer

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Slowing down is something NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Denny Hamlin isn’t necessarily used to doing, but he looked at home chasing a white ball instead of a checkered flag on Wednesday.

Hamlin was on hand at The Greenbrier, turning in a pro-am round alongside PGA Tour member J.B. Holmes.

He joined the Greenbrier family in early June and actually drove his No. 11 FedEx Toyota around the circle in front of the hotel, spinning his tires as part of his grand entrance.

On Saturday in Kentucky, his car took a hard hit into the wall early in the race after blowing a tire. He was running third at the time.

Hamlin came out of the car visibly limping, but he said he was fine and looking forward to a good round of golf on Wednesday.

“I jarred my foot a little bit this past weekend, but I took a day and I was ready to go,” Hamlin said. “Golf is always a good way to kind of get away from any good or bad week that you had the week before.”

It has been a bit of an up-and-down season for Hamlin, with the highlight being a win at Talladega on May 4.

He sits in ninth place in the Sprint Cup standings buoyed by that victory, which should be enough to get him into the Chase, NASCAR’s version of a playoff. The system was tweaked before this year to put a larger emphasis on winning.

But it has been a relatively tough go for Hamlin since crashing hard at California early in 2013, as he suffered a back injury and had to miss four races.

He finished 23rd in points last season, his worst finish since becoming a full-time driver in 2006.

Even with Saturday’s crash, Hamlin has shown signs of coming back to the form that ended in five straight top-10 season finishes between 2008-2012, including finishing as the runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in 2010.

For his career, he has 24 wins and has earned $58,396,513 in Sprint Cup racing alone.

“I think our team is heading in the right direction for sure,” Hamlin said. “All of our cars finished in the top five with the exception of us with the blown tire. It’s a good sign that our team is starting to turn it around.”

But with a night race at Daytona looming Saturday, Hamlin was enjoying a rare day off in the middle of what is a long and sometimes grueling NASCAR season.

“It has been awesome to be part of the Greenbrier family,” Hamlin said. “We got a partnership a few weeks ago. I’ve always come here for the last few years — always enjoyed it. It’s a great family atm. I’ve always played a lot of golf up here. I got the opportunity to play in the pro-am and it was an off day for me during the week, so it worked out great.”

As far as his game goes, Hamlin said he had played a few rounds on the Old White TPC prior to Wednesday and said he was looking to help his group in any way possible.

“I’m a solid golfer, I’m not a great golfer, but solid,” Hamlin said. “It’s about making putts, that’s pretty much all golf is about.”

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.


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