DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Denny Hamlin’s career stats will eventually make him a NASCAR Hall of Famer. While he has yet to win a NASCAR Cup Series championship, the rest of his stats stand out on a Hall of Fame level.
Two-time Daytona 500 champion, two-time Southern 500 winner, two-time Bristol night race winner, All-Star race winner and a Rookie of the Year in 2006.
But, Hamlin started off being known as a short track racer turned NASCAR star. Rightfully so too, 15 of his 37 Cup wins are on tracks one-mile or shorter in length.
But, as of late, Hamlin has become an ace on another discipline of tracks – superspeedway’s. In fact, a solid case can be made that Hamlin is the best racer on these tracks now.
Hamlin has two points paying Cup wins at Daytona, both in the Daytona 500 and both occurring in the last four years. To go along with that, he has three wins in both the Duels (2008, 2014, 2017) as well as the Clash (2006, 2014, 2016).
That’s an astounding eight Daytona Speedweeks victories to his credit already.
“People think of a lot of times throughout my career as being a short-track guy, and really, I deem myself a short-track guy, who has just adapted really well to superspeedway racing,” Hamlin said on Wednesday. “A lot of that has come from watching some of the best do it.”
Hamlin, has had a front row seat at watching the best race at Daytona too. Tony Stewart was a former teammate of his and Stewart went on to make 19 trips to victory lane at Daytona during the course of his Hall of Fame career.
“He’s the guy that I kind of idolized and looked at the way he did things,” he said of Stewart. “I feel like over the second half of my career have really been a student of the game on, how can I improve? How can I put myself in a better position to finish these races?”
Hamlin noted that he has a solid feel on when to get out of harms way during these crazy superspeedway races. The Virginia native noted that when you feel that hair on the back of your neck stand up that it’s time to get out and go to the back for a while.
“You know that the things you’ve been doing have been successful, and I won’t change any of them until it doesn’t work anymore and I have to adapt.”
Hamlin, is hoping to become the first driver since Sterling Marlin (1994-1995) to win back-to-back Daytona 500’s. He said that for the last eight years he’s been a contender each year for the ‘500 win and that he doesn’t see why it would be any different now than before.