It has been well-documented – and probably over-discussed – that in 2011 Denny Hamlin and his team imploded after a second-place finish the year before. Of all the drivers in the 2012 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, it would be expected that Denny would be disappointed. He is not and shouldn’t be.
“It was a good bounce back year for us. We didn’t get to victory lane much in 2011 and we kind of got back to the winning ways in 2012”. Denny said, “Ultimately, you want to lift the big trophy but it’s very gratifying to get the race wins because it shows that you have speed. You have what it takes to be a champion and you’ve just got to put it all together the last 10 races.”
Denny had a series-leading four wins during the regular season, which vaulted him from eighth in the standing to first. Denny won races and let everyone else know he was serious about winning the championship.
He was right in there battling for the championship until some bad luck at Martinsville, a race where he was expected to win. His 33rd place finish took him out of contention. Denny Hamlin finished the year with five wins, 14 top five and 17 top ten finishes. He led 1226 laps. His season was only three wins short of matching his season from 2011. For comparison purposes, Brad Keselowski had five wins, 13 top five, and 23 top ten finishes. If Denny could improve the races he finished bad in he would have been right there.
Denny said, “These championships are won — it’s almost the last man standing in the sense of you can’t have a bad race or it will knock you out.”
Denny Hamlin and his No 11 FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing team is back. Denny is looking forward to having former champion Matt Kenseth as a teammate. Denny said,
“A lot of experience. I was one that definitely pushed for Matt (Kenseth) to come over to Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) and I just think that he’s really going to mesh well with me and Kyle (Busch). I know that Kyle does a lot of short track racing with Matt’s son and I know that me and Matt have very similar driving styles on the race track. I look forward to that communication and just hearing about how he did things versus how we do things and really that’s what makes teams stronger. When Kyle came over in 2008, it was that drive that kind of pushed me to that next level, is having someone come over and push you to be better. I think it’s going to be no different with Matt.”
Look for Denny Hamlin to repeat 2012 and be a serious contender for 2013.