This NASCAR season has not gone the way that Denny Hamlin hoped it would through the first six races, but Richmond is different. Short track season is upon us and with that, there are some expectations for some drivers. The only issue is that with the new Next Gen cars, there are no expectations. Even for someone like Hamlin who has raced well in Richmond in the past, it doesn’t matter much.
Hamlin has failed to finish three races this season. When he has completed races, it has been with a lackluster effort in the final laps. Point blank, the No. 11 hasn’t put together a full race all season.
“We are decent, but we are not where we have been for the last three years,” Hamlin admitted. “We are trying to find that point where we are good, and we can build off of that.”
This NASCAR season has been hard on Denny Hamlin and hard on Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole. Scratch that, this season has been hard on all Toyota drivers in the Cup Series. A Camry has yet to win a Next Gen race. That’s a position the manufacturer and their drivers want to change. After qualifying, JGR has all four drivers in the top-13. Kyle Busch is starting third, Martin Truex Jr., in sixth, Christopher Bell in ninth, and Hamlin will start in 13th.
“I think you can catapult up the standings really, really quickly,” Hamlin went on. “If you have a couple solid weeks where we don’t get crashed or cause a crash, those things add up. We’re not happy with where our speed is at for sure, but certainly we are not a 22nd-place team. Am I worried about making the playoffs, if that is what you are asking? No.”
NASCAR: Denny Hamlin’s Teammate Says the Past Doesn’t Matter
Three of the last five NASCAR Cup Series races at Richmond have gone to Denny Hamlin’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. If anyone should be feeling good about this weekend, it should be the No. 19 driver. However, he knows that he can’t rely on years past. Not with the Next Gen cars.
“Whatever you think you knew and the way you thought about these tracks before and the way you approach these things – just forget about it, because this is a whole new ballgame with this car and everything,” Truex explained. “Forget everything you knew in the past and focus on what it takes to make this thing go, which we are still trying to figure out.”
Despite the strong history on the track, Truex and the rest of the JGR team are not taking anything for granted. They know that these new cars are tough to get right. However, when things click, expect these talented and experienced drivers to make some big moves.