Last season never seemed so far away for Denny Hamlin.
The 2013 season was a forgettable one for Hamlin, to say the least. He missed four races – and most of a fifth – with a back injury, missed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time in his career and needed all 36 races for his first victory.
This year, he needed only 10 races to capture his first win (Talladega), which also happened to be his first points win at a restrictor plate track.
And with the new championship format for 2014, last Sunday’s victory at Talladega virtually guarantees Hamlin a spot in the Chase, which would be his eighth in nine full seasons.
Of course, this season has not been without its hiccups. He missed the race at Auto Club Speedway with what turned out to be a small piece of metal in his eye. And, returning to the track the following week, slogged through four consecutive finishes outside the top 10.
But his victory in Talladega erased all those ill wills. Now Hamlin heads to Kansas Speedway, site of his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in 2005. In his Kansas career, Hamlin has totaled 11 starts, one win (April of 2012) and three top fives.