Driver to Watch: Denny Hamlin goes home to Richmond

Denny Hamlin before Nationwide qualifying in
Darlington, S.C., in May.
Photo Credit: Genevieve
Denny Hamlin is the first Sprint Cup driver to win back-to-back races this season and leads the series in wins. Atlanta’s AdvoCare 500 marked Hamlin's fourth victory of  the 2012 season.

Heading to Richmond International Raceway, a track he calls home, Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx team are filled with energy and momentum and they are pumped for short-track racing at the 0.75-mile oval. The odds of winning are high in Hamlin's favor: in 13 starts, he's secured nine top 10s, seven top fives and two wins.

Hamlin started to work with championship crew chief Darian Grubb at the beginning of the season and their partnership has worked out favorably. Grubb may win his second Cup title in November - he won the 2011 title with Tony Stewart. 

Heading into Richmond, Hamlin has the provisional first seed to the Chase. To keep those points, he must finish 3rd or higher. If Jimmie Johnson wins Saturday night, he will be seeded first instead of Hamlin.

It’s been two years since Hamlin was first in points and contending for the Cup title. At the Homestead-Miami season finale, he lost to Johnson, who won his fifth Cup title. A battle is brewing between the two, which could be exciting for drivers and fans. Will Hamlin outlast the man we call Five-Time?

When asked if he felt his biggest challenge before the Chase would be another competitor, Hamlin responded, “It's tough to not always keep an eye on the competition, but as long as we focus on just getting me the best cars possible and working with that, then we are going to be fine.”

Hamlin added, “You almost have got to keep the blinders on once the Chase starts, because you've got what you've got."

"You don't battle with yourself but you know there the racing is going to be different," he said about racing in Atlanta and Richmond. "Obviously it's going to be about nothing but winning for us, if we are going to try new set ups and things like that, I'm all for it, because right now, we need as many bonus points as possible, because we see how tight this field is, and I'm looking at the Chase field saying that, gosh, there is -- every single one of them can make a run and win this championship, so it's going to be about who manages the Chase the best and I think that we have a great shot at that."

From left: J.D. Gibbs, Denny Hamlin, Darian Grubb
Bristol, August 2012
Photo Credit: Genevieve

Genevieve at Ogunquit Beach, Maine
Genevieve is a free-lance writer living in Cornelius, North Carolina. Aside from writing about NASCAR, she writes about fitness, yoga, running and other topics that interest her. Genevieve is currently working on a fiction story. You can follow her on Twitter at @C_Genevieve.

Driver to Watch: Denny Hamlin goes home to Richmond Driver to Watch: Denny Hamlin goes home to Richmond Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, September 06, 2012 Rating: 5