Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Denny Hamlin Bringing Chassis That is 3-for-3 in Starts With Cup Wins in 2009
This weekend will mark Hamlin's ninth-career Cup start at his hometown track, 161st career Cup start and yet another homecoming to the track where the Chesterfield-native sat in the stands studying the skills of his racing hero, Bill Elliott. Last fall, Hamlin put on a dominating display, leading 299 of 400 laps to record his first Cup win at his hometown track. A flawless drive by Hamlin – supported by a perfect driver rating of 150.0 – was met stride for stride by the #11 team who made smart changes all day, and consistently had Hamlin out of the box quickly.
In the spring of 2009, Hamlin led a race-high 148 laps but a slow late-race pit stop dropped him from first to eighth place for the restart on lap 278. As the race wound down, the lack of track position hurt Hamlin, and then fading brakes and tires saw him slide back to 14th by the end. A year ago, Hamlin and the #11 team led four laps but fell out of the top-five through the middle section of the race before charging back to claim a hard-fought third place. In the spring of 2008, the Chesterfield (Va.) native Hamlin and the #11 team thoroughly dominated the 400-lap event at Richmond, leading 381 laps in the Crown Royal 400 before a cut tire forced him to relinquish the lead and settle for a gut-wrenching 24th-place finish.
Hamlin had a memorable debut at RIR, going wheel to wheel with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the spring of 2006 before ultimately finishing second on the day. Hamlin has captured two poles in front of his hometown fans and has led at least four laps in each of his previous starts at Richmond International.
JGR 248 & 256: The FedEx team will unload Chassis JGR 248 this weekend in Richmond. This car has a perfect record to date, starting three races (Pocono – Aug. 2009, Martinsville – Oct. 2009, Homestead – Nov. 2009) and winning all three times. JGR 256 will serve as the backup this weekend – it started four races in 2009 and posted three top-five finishes.
Looked like luck was the only thing missing in Talladega. Are you happy with a fourth-place finish?: "Well anytime you are running at the end of a race at Talladega you feel like you’ve accomplished something but we had such a good car and a really good chance of winning that race. We could push anyone to the front all race long, but I just ended up in the wrong line after those cautions and couldn’t get there. We’ll take that fourth place, take the points and this FedEx team will keep moving ahead. We have some good race tracks in front of us and a long ways to go but we are feeling pretty good about where we are right now."
Headed back to Richmond – does the excitement of racing here change for you the more you come back?: "It never goes away – it’s still the race I look forward to the most and having my charity race as part of Richmond week makes it all that more special. Getting a win here last fall was really important to me and this team and we absolutely want to come back and do it again. We feel like this track is a place where we can run upfront every time we come here and I know we all would be disappointed to come here and not perform at the level we expect to."
What is the secret to your success at Richmond? "If I told you, I’d have to kill you. Other than that, I’ve got a great feel for that race track. It’s just a track that we’ve always run extremely competitive at. What I’m hoping is that we go back there and we’re as competitive as what we always are. Of course, there’s hometown weekend and of course my short track Showdown weekend. That’s a big weekend for myself and the whole race team. I always like to perform as good as we can. The only thing is we are going back to a heavy braking race track again in Richmond. So, hopefully we make a little bit more strides with the (knee surgery) recovery."
This guy is going to be tough to beat on his home turf as evidenced by his wild chase for the Martinsville win this season despite a poor decision in stopping for four tires.