Hamlin talks about coming back from injury (VIDEO)

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Denny Hamlin is no different than any other racer when he mentions how painful it was for somebody else to drive his car. After injuring his back in March during a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway, Hamlin had to endure that very situation and watch both Mark Martin and Brian Vickers race his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota while he recovered.

But Hamlin made sure to get something positive out of the trying experience.

“I came to the race track on the race weekend just like I would if I was driving and observe other guys and see what I can do make myself a better race car driver,” Hamlin told Michelle Beadle on NBC Sports Network’s “The Crossover” from Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I think coming out of this injury, I’m gonna be better than I was leading into it because of all the information I’ve gathered while sitting on the sidelines. Even though it’s [been] tough, I’ve also learned a lot of things.”

Hamlin has been impressive in his return to competition so far. In his first full race since the injury, he notched a runner-up finish at Darlington Raceway and on Thursday, he set a new CMS qualifying record en route to winning the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night. It certainly appears that he’s putting all that he’s learned to good use.

To hear more on Hamlin’s resurgence, watch the video above and remember to check out “The Crossover” every weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Dodge to celebrate 50th anniversary of Hemi motor at NHRA U.S. Nationals

Photo courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
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When this year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals plays out from August 29 through September 3 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a lot of folks are going to be channeling one of the most famous lines in motorsports:

“Hey, that thing got a Hemi?”

Dodge and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Thursday – on National Hemi Day, no less – announced that it will celebrate the Hemi’s 50th anniversary of Super Stock cars with the 18th annual Dodge Hemi Challenge during the U.S. Nationals.

Cars that will take part in the Challenge will be 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda cars – “The most iconic of the Mopar package cars,” touted a Dodge press release – in a head-to-head battle.

The Dart and Barracuda were purpose built for use solely on a drag strip. The 23 entrants in the Challenge will drive their personally owned versions of the ’68 ‘Cuda and Dart.

The winner of the Challenge – which will be held August 30-31 – will take home a $15,000 purse, while cash rewards will be available for all 16 drivers that qualify for final eliminations.

“The Dodge brand is proud to serve as title sponsor of the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, an event that spotlights the legacy and power of the 426 HEMI engine,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America.

Beahm added, “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock cars that debuted back in 1968 and are still competing today, which makes our support of this edition of the HEMI Challenge extra special.”

One special incentive for contestants is the 42.6-pound NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy, created in the spirit of the 426 (cubic inch) HEMI engine.

Jimmy Daniels has won the Challenge the last two years and goes for a three-peat in this year’s race within a race. His father, Jim Daniels, won the race in 2010.

The Challenge’s all-time winningest driver is Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Michigan, who captured the Challenge in six different years: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

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