In Thursday's press conference, Jimmie Johnson pursued what was, for him, the equivalent of a pro wrestling psych-out, trying to get into Denny Hamlin's head by saying that Hamlin was the nervous one. And indeed, Hamlin did appear a bit nervous, bracketed as he was by the cool confidence of Johnson and the needling of Kevin Harvick.
Johnson followed that up in his Friday morning media session with another shot, noting that he slept just fine, but that Hamlin probably didn't. When informed of that comment, Hamlin, who's apparently had about enough, replied, "If he keeps bringing up my name, then he's pretty much worried about me."
Maybe yes, maybe no. What's obvious is that all three drivers are doing their best to get at each other, and Johnson and Harvick are clearly landing the most shots. Harvick has gone after Hamlin's car and setup, while Johnson has attacked his frame of mind.
Perhaps it's a coincidence that Hamlin qualified 37th. Perhaps not.
Regardless, Hamlin on Friday tried to clarify what he meant by feeling "awkward" on the dais during Thursday's conference. "What I meant by awkward was that they had all the videos, the drivers' spats back and forth, this that and the other right at the beginning," he told Yahoo! Sports. "And you're looking out, you can't see anyone out with the lights on you, and you're sitting next to your competitors on either side. So, that part was the small awkward part. It took about five minutes to get over. But I thought it went good. I thought you got a sense of where everyone's head was at."
So Hamlin now knows -- he's all in Harvick and Johnson's heads. But is he a threat or a target?