After more than a month and a half away from his racecar, Denny Hamlin made his way back to the No.11 in a triumphant return.
In his first race back to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Hamlin made a big statement upon his return at Darlington Raceway. After weeks away from the racetrack, it was unknown how Hamlin would be once he made his return to race full-time and if he would be the same competitive driver has been for most of his career. After his first full race back, Hamlin silenced any doubters after capturing a second-place finish at Darlington.
Heading into the race at the lady in black, Hamlin was a man on a mission. Not only was he trying to get used to being back in his racecar, but he’s also been working on making the chase even after a hiatus. A back injury and time away didn’t keep Hamlin from going after what he wanted, a great return and competing for the win. He didn’t get the win, but second place was still a win after everything he went through and finishing the race exhausted and drained out.
Following the race at the “Lady in black” Hamlin has managed to begin to make improvements among the point standings. In just his first race back, he moved up four spots in the point standings up to 27. His chances to move up in the points and to have a chance in the chase might be possible as some of Hamlin’s most comfortable tracks are approaching on the schedule.
The Cup Series is heading into the All-Star break. But afterwards, Hamlin has a great shot at recovering his season. His best chances to redeem some of his season within the upcoming month will be at Charlotte, Pocono and Michigan, three tracks he has captured great finishes and wins.
Heading into those three tracks, Hamlin has captured wins at both Pocono and Michigan in the past. In 2010, he took back-to-back wins at Pocono and Michigan and won at Michigan once more in 2011. With the Coca-Cola 600 fast approaching at Charlotte, Hamlin has a great chance to continue his improvement at Charlotte and his comeback. In the 2012 season, Hamlin finished second in both Charlotte races.
Time will only tell if Hamlin manages to make it into the chase as one of the 12 championship contenders, but he has put himself out there as one to watch. With plenty of races still to go until the chase cut-off, one thing is for sure, nothing can keep Hamlin off the racetrack.