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Hamlin Says See Him In September

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 11 2010
Denny Hamlin, who drives the No. 11 FedEx Toyota, says the championship talk about him is nice but premature. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Denny Hamlin, who drives the No. 11 FedEx Toyota, says the championship talk about him is nice but premature. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Many of the same media members who picked Carl Edwards as the top challenger to Jimmie Johnson last year are picking Denny Hamlin as the most likely to dethrone this year.

Although the pre-season picks don’t mean much, especially considering Edwards was never a championship threat last year and didn’t even win a Cup race, it’s obvious that Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team have the ingredients to mount a challenge of the four-time champion Johnson.

But Hamlin cautioned the railbirds to not read too much into the results of the first few races.

“I don’t think anyone should look at us until September to be honest with you – the way we’re setting up our season,” he said. “Daytona means nothing as far as the season is concerned. We’ve seen that in years past.”

Hamlin, like many others in the sport, has studied the championship runs of Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led crew and determined that they pace themselves, saving some of their best cars and their best efforts for the 10-race, season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup.

He said that while the Daytona 500 is the sport’s premier event, it is not a title-determining race.

“The top five typically finishing positions of the Daytona 500 are not your typical top-five week in and week out,” he said. “It’s just one of those races where it seems to happen that way. We’re not going to hang our hat on the Daytona 500 and what we do here in Speedweeks.”

He said his team is capable on winning this Sunday, but that’s not the most important thing when it comes to the final season standings.

“It’s ‘Can you compete when we get to California?  Can you compete when we get to Vegas?  Can you compete when we get to Martinsville and those race tracks?’ ” he said. “We’re going to have somewhat of a judgment on where we’re at five or six races in, but it’s not going to define who we are until we get to August and September when we start turning the heat up.”

Hamlin said another factor in his favor is that his pit crew is returning intact and preparing for a title run.

“Consistency is all you can ask for and that’s what wins championships in the long run is not making mistakes and that’s what we’re working our team with,” he said. “We have the exact same pit crew as what we had last year, and I think keeping that same core group together is what will make consistency better because you have guys that work with each other and have been working with each other for the last couple of years.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 11 2010
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  • midasmicah says:

    Amazing!!! Whatever happened to winning being a priority? This is fruit of vine as far as the chase goes and it doesn’t look or smell pretty. The rules changes nas$car has made going into this season are good, but until they get rid of the chase formula a lot of people won’t come back.