Jerry Seinfeld has an old line of his comedy routine, where he said he’d rather finish last than secure a Silver medal in the Olympics.
He makes a gesture where he shows the Gold medalist with his face inches ahead, the Silver’s just behind. And that difference is what allows the Gold medalist to be recognized, and the Silver to become a mere afterthought.
Tonight, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the Gold medalist, and Denny Hamlin was the Silver medalist in the Daytona 500.
And Hamlin seemed as though he’d rather finish last than finish second.
“Well there’s a lot to be disappinted about but there’s a lot to be happy about,” Hamlin said.
After winning the Sprint Unlimited last Saturday night, then taking his Budweiser Duel win on Thursday, Hamlin entered Sunday as race favorite. A win on Sunday would have made him the first in history to pull off the Daytona Speedweeks trifecta sweep.
Hamlin started from the second row and enjoyed a consistent race, within the top 10 for most of it but really putting himself in position to win late.
How he held up was a story in itself, where he had intermittent radio outages. So he had to essentially had to drive by himself with no audio help from his spotter.
“I had to wing it those last 150 laps on my own, with not having a spotter,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t know whether to back up more. That’s why we lost our luster. It was just me trying not to wreck anyone. Trying to spot all six corners by itself.”
He tried making his move off Turn 4 on the final lap, but to no avail. The gap of 0.092 of a second, albeit under caution, was the furthest gap between a winner and second place finisher in the three major races at Daytona this weekend.
And for Hamlin, it never felt so far away.
“I’m a little disappointed,” he sighed.
Still, after the nightmare 2013 he endured, being disappointed with second is a good sign for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who is an early candidate to be “most improved” in 2014.