With two races to go in The 2010 Chase, Denny Hamlin was all over the news, known as ‘The Man Who May Dethrone Jimmie Johnson.’ If anybody could do it, it was definitely him; he won eight races that season, coming back from tearing his ACL while playing basketball. Adversity was a weak competitor for this driver. Yet, with a twelfth-place finish in the Phoenix race, it damaged his confidence, and he couldn’t close the deal at Homestead. So, when 2011 rolled around, many said Hamlin would return to his pre-Phoenix streak and contend for the title. However, he barely made it into this year’s Chase, and it turned out to be a dud. His one win paled in comparison to the eight he racked up before.
Eyebrows are being raised again in the months before the 2012 season begins, wondering how Denny will fair. On Twitter, he has used the hashtag ‘#Redemption2012,’ showing that he is prepared to take on the new season with determination and focus. Can it finally go in his favor?
If Denny’s championship hopes can come true, he is definitely in a position to go for it now. Going into Daytona, he has a new crew chief in Darian Grubb, the man who helped current-champ Tony Stewart win the title. Although Stewart-Haas let him go under confusing circumstances, Grubb seems ready to start from scratch. Hamlin will give everything he can to make their partnership click even sooner. In NASCAR, there is no time for fumbling around and figuring things out; fast cars don’t slow down for anyone. These two must hit the ground running if they want to pull of something spectacular this year.
Joe Gibbs Racing needs to alter their strategy at restrictor plate tracks, which will help Hamlin greatly, I believe. When NASCAR heads to some of the most competitive and exciting tracks on the circuit, two-car drafting usually takes place. This raises problems for three-car teams, leaving someone out. At JGR, that ‘someone’ is Denny. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but something like that must damage your confidence after a while. A small, missing piece makes it impossible to finish a puzzle, and this could be it. We won’t know until changes are made, though.
When you are so close to glory and it suddenly fades away, your first reaction is to blame yourself. Hamlin went through the stage of self-pity, and it affected his 2011 performance. Mentally strong, he isn’t shaken easily, but the defeat hit him in a way that hurt him the most. Yet, with an off-season move to Arizona, which he calls his ‘Heaven,’ something has relaxed within the star. Being loose and comfortable shows us that he is content with where he is at personally.
With a new crew chief and an old outlook, Hamlin is looking to redeem himself from an almost-perfect 2010 and a shockingly disappointing 2011. I see him making The Chase with help from three or more wins and some consistency, and he will make noise in the final ten races. If anybody recover and make a powerful comeback, it is Denny Hamlin without question.