Denny Hamlin: Expect groove to widen as race goes on

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Driver introductions are now underway at Bristol Motor Speedway, where track drying continues in hopes of NASCAR being able to start the Food City 500 relatively soon.

The morning rains have delayed the start by some 90 minutes now and washed all the rubber off of the high-banked half-mile. Still, pole sitter Denny Hamlin expects to see a groove widen out toward the top of the track as the race progresses.

“You’re gonna see the track not rubber up as much as we had it during ‘Happy Hour’ simply because the sun’s not out and the temperature’s not up,” he explained to Fox Sports during the rain delay. “But the rubber will lay down enough to where the groove will start widening out, and eventually, it will get to where the Nationwide cars were and probably even higher.

“Talking to my [Joe Gibbs Racing] teammates yesterday, they said it kind of got to where it was a few years ago when they were always running the top and it was the fastest. But with this [Sprint Cup] car, with the downforce and this tire – I think on the lower line, we’ll be able to pass a little bit easier than it has in the past. But you’ll still see a fight for the top after halfway.”

Hamlin, a past Bristol winner, believes that his No. 11 JGR Toyota will be strong either low or high on the Bristol banking.

“We didn’t really pay any lap time penalty [in practice] by going to the top or going to the bottom,” he added. “That’s the key for us. We feel like if you’re gonna pass, get through lapped traffic and gain positions, you’re gonna need to move around and have a car that can do that.”

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”