In Denny Hamlin’s first seven years of full-time racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series he has earned a spot in NASCAR’s postseason – the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – every season. In 2013, his eighth season, the streak ended, and for the first time in his career he’s on the outside looking in.
He has company though, in the form of Brian Vickers, who is driving the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in preparation for his full-time return to NASCAR’s premier series in 2014.
Hamlin and Vickers are the two most recent drivers to celebrate at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the site of Sunday’s SYLVANIA 300, the second round of NASCAR’s 10-race playoffs. Although neither driver is in the Chase field, both drivers are expected to be gunning for the win and hoping to play the role of “spoiler.”
Hamlin, who is currently 27th in the standings, won this event last September, leading 193 of 300 laps. He also won in New Hampshire in July 2007. He has compiled seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 15 starts. His average driver rating is 103.5, fourth highest among all active drivers.
NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Vickers has split seat time between the No. 55 and No. 11 this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, competing in 13 events. In the premier series’ first trip to New Hampshire, Vickers scored an improbable win after leading only the last 16 circuits. In 16 starts at the 1.058-mile track, he finished in the top 10 four times. His average driver rating is 84.3.