LAS VEGAS, NV — Prior to heading south to Daytona Beach each February, the first goal for all the NASCAR Cup Series drivers that are competing in any given season is simple – win the Daytona 500.
For 39 drivers, that goal come Presidents Day has come and gone without achieving it. But, for one driver, he gets to bask in the glory of winning NASCAR’s Super Bowl. So, now that the first goal is accomplished, what’s next?
A championship is obvious, but the have more that they strive for. In terms of Denny Hamlin, his next goal is simple — win at least nine of the final 35 races.
Hamlin, wants to reach double digit wins for the first time of his career. The Virginia native, has won 38 times over the course of his now 15 year Cup career, but the most times he’s ever reached victory lane in a single season is eight in 2010. He won six times a year ago after going winless for the entire 2018 campaign. Now, he’s won seven times in the last 37 races and hoping for nine more over the next 35.
“I’d be satisfied with that and then beyond that would be nice,” Hamlin said on Friday from Las Vegas. “I think that the championship is an easy goal that anyone just throws out, win a championship. But, that comes down to one race.
“If you can win a significant amount of races, it shows a bigger picture of your full year. If you make it to the Final Four, that’s a bigger picture of your entire year. I think the championship, a successful year is making the Final Four. Anything after that is just whatever it is.”
Hamlin, has made two championships, but hasn’t finished better than third in each. This year, the final race is in Phoenix, a race that Hamlin won last year.
“Certainly we set lofty goals. I think everyone sets huge and lofty goals, but certainly we’re going to push ourselves to better what we did last year and it starts with Daytona and we’re able to repeat there so then let’s get a win now before we get to Texas to keep ourselves on pace or better from last year.”
If Hamlin can get to double digits in the win column, he’d be the first driver to do so since Jimmie Johnson in 2007 when he took 10 trips to victory lane in his championship winning season.