Persevering his way through the regular season and the first two rounds of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Denny Hamlin finds himself in the perfect situation for a championship run.
The trio of Eliminator Round tracks – Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix are three of his best courses. All he has to do is win a race at one of those venues and he automatically advances to the Championship at Homestead where he boasts two victories and is the defending winner. If not, he can still move on to Homestead by accumulating more points in the Eliminator Round than four winless Chase-contending drivers.
Hamlin gets his first crack at winning in Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN). The No. 11 FedEx Toyota driver owns four victories at “The Paper Clip” – tied with Pocono for his most at any track. Additionally, he boasts nine top-five and 13 top-10 finishes at the track located 130 miles from his hometown of Chesterfield, Virginia.
Although he has the third-fewest starts (52) of the remaining eight drivers at the Eliminator Round tracks, Hamlin’s seven wins rank second to only Jeff Gordon’s 11, accumulated over 101 starts. The 34-year-old also claims the highest average finish (10.3) and second-best driver rating (100.1). He owns two wins at Texas and one at Phoenix.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” said Hamlin of his opportunity to advance with a win at Martinsville. “As average as our team has been this year, we go into a short track where horsepower doesn’t matter, aero doesn’t matter, it’s about driver and mechanical setup. I feel like that’s our strong suit with our team.”