After back to back wins just prior to the Chase getting started, at Bristol, and Atlanta, I was convinced that 2012 was going to be Denny Hamlin’s year. When he tacked on another win at New Hampshire, I was sure of it. With the addition of Darian Grubb to his pit box, replacing Mike Ford after the 2011 campaign, I felt all the pieces were in place for the 32 year old from Chesterfield Virginia to avenge his 2010 loss to Jimmie Johnson, and win his first Sprint Cup title, and the first for Joe Gibbs Racing in a Toyota. Then came Martinsville.
After two penalties for speeding on pit road, Hamlin had fought his way back to the front when he ran into the same problems that have plagued Joe Gibbs Racing for the past five years, mechanical failures. Denny finished 33rd at the worlds largest paper clip, and after a 22nd place finish the following week, he was out of contention for a Sprint Cup Title in 2012, and finished the year in 6th position.
The 2013 season will be a crap shoot for all of the race teams with the implementation of the new 6th Generation car, and it will take teams some time in the new car to get a book on chassis and tire setups, but the good news for Denny Hamlin is, he will have an experienced veteran in Matt Kenseth as a teammate for some help getting a quick handle on it.
The elephant in the room however, is the the mechanical failures that have plagued Toyota, and in particular the Joe Gibbs stable of drivers since the 2008 season when they switched over to Toyota. The engine department at JGR had built all of their Sprint Cup engines until the 2012 season when it was all turned over to Toyota Racing Development(TRD), who also build engines for Michael Waltrip Racing. If they can stay away from these problems, Denny Hamlin will have an opportunity to get that first Toyota Championship in 2013.
Denny Hamlin has 22 wins in his Sprint Cup career, with 15 coming from the intermediate tracks. Tracks that are less than 2.0 miles in length. He also has had seven victories on the the short tracks(less than 1 mile) with four checkered flags coming at Martinsville. Denny has never figured out the restrictor plate tracks as of yet. I don’t feel like it has hurt him too badly, with only Talladega being on the Chase schedule, he has always run strong at the remainder of the chase tracks, and will continue to do so in 2013.
I look for the FedEx Toyota to run strong again in 2013. Hamlin has one of the finest crew chiefs in the business, and with Matt Kenseth on board, the season can’t be anything but good. He has all of the talent needed to get it done this year, if only the equipment can hold up through the gruelling schedule.
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