This has NOT been Denny Hamlin’s season.
After a fractured vertebrae forced the Chesterfield, Va., native to miss four races (and most of a fifth, at Talladega), Hamlin has experienced mostly disheartening results and unlucky outcomes.
He currently is mired in a streak of 11 consecutive finishes of 18th or worse, averaging a finish of 28.3. He is mathematically eliminated from Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup consideration, missing NASCAR’s playoffs for the first time in a career that began in 2006.
So, what now? Richmond, that’s what. His championship hopes now dashed, Hamlin only has pride and wins for which to race.
This weekend’s race at Hamlin’s home track just might be the cure-all for one of the sport’s biggest talents. It’s one of his best tracks, and it’ll be a long time coming – the spring Richmond race was one of the four he missed.
Hamlin has two wins at Richmond, and finishes in the top 10 in four of the last five races. And when he doesn’t finish in the top 10, it’s usually the result of misfortune. For instance, in his last start there in September of 2012, Hamlin led 202 laps only to finish 18th.
Of Hamlin’s 14 starts at Richmond, he has tallied triple-digit laps-led figures in five of them. He also boasts the highest Richmond driver rating, at 117.8.