Here’s Why Denny Hamlin Isn’t Interested in Beating HMS at Their Own Fortress

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BRISTOL, TN – APRIL 06: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, prepares to drive during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
As NASCAR heads to the state of Virginia, all eyes are on hometown hero Denny Hamlin’s comeback for the race at Richmond this weekend after he qualified in 11th. But once we move next door to Martinsville Speedway, the 23XI Racing co-owner believes not even Joe Gibbs Racing could stand in the way of Hendrick Motorsport’s dominance. But what prompts a driver like Hamlin to show signs of underconfidence against the HMS garage? Before the Cup Series action gets underway at Richmond this afternoon, Hamlin listed down all the reasons why NASCAR’s winningest team is nearly insurmountable each year at the track we’re going to be visiting just next week.
HMS has been good at Martinsville even before I was in the Cup Series: Denny Hamlin
It’s no secret that Hendrick Motorsports loves Martinsville Speedway. Not only did the track bear witness to their first-ever win in 1984, but has since been the home ground for HMS’ domination. Through the years, HMS drivers have brought home a staggering 28 cup wins at the speedway. With that said, 2024 is bound to be an even more special event as it coincides with HMS’ 40th Anniversary. The track officials have already revealed how the weekend will be HMS-centric. with Rick Hendrick driving the pace car and Jeff Gordon taking the role of Grand Marshal.
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Naturally, Denny Hamlin isn’t ranking his chances of snubbing HMS on their strongest turf very highly. Reflecting on what it takes to beat HMS at Martinsville, he shared; “You know, it obviously means a lot to them for really important reasons but if you’re able to beat them, which doesn’t happen too often at that track, certainly you’ve got kind of everything going (for you), you’ve got to have that pit crew because you’ve got to qualify well. All those things matter.”
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Highlighting the ‘beast’ that the Martinsville short track can prove to be, Hamlin felt the heavy braking and tight corners meant all the stars had to line up for a team to win. While it had been easy for HMS, it wasn’t so simple for other teams. He added, “They’ve just been good there forever. I mean, even before I was in the Cup Series, they were good. Jeff Gordon and those guys were dominating, and then Jimmie Johnson came along. He just took over and started dominating. So it’s just a track that they’ve got figured out.”
While Hamlin couldn’t wrap his head around what specifically separated the HMS crews from other teams, he did feel one factor must have contributed immensely. Hamlin stated, “Maybe it’s a track that they tested at way back in the day because you used to be able to test just anytime you wanted to….But certainly, emotions are probably always high for those guys going into a Martinsville weekend. And that just adds a little pressure to the drivers to know they’ve gotta step up.”
Whilst it’s safe to say Denny Hamlin didn’t fancy his and JGR’s chances of besting Hendrick Motorsports at Martinsville, the race at Richmond tomorrow could very well give the #11 the momentum it needs.
Denny Hamlin sheds light on the importance of Richmond for the #11 JGR crew
Heading into Toyota Owners 400, there’s no driver as confident as Denny Hamlin about having a good weekend. After all, the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has finished in the top 5 for seven of the last 10 races at Richmond Raceway. Last year in July, Hamlin finished second at Richmond and also won the spring race in 2022. While he’s showcased great form for JGR at Richmond, it hasn’t helped him gain the momentum needed for a title charge.
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If the 43-year-old wants to finally win a championship with JGR, then it will be crucial for the #11 to have a strong outing at the Virginia track. Speaking on the importance of having a good finish at Richmond, Hamlin shared with the media, “I love it. This is a track always where we’re starting to get into the swing of the tracks where we’re gonna be contenders every week, so this kind of kicks off that part of the schedule. So I think we kind of know where we’re at, we’re six races in, we know what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are, and now we just have to capitalize when we come to tracks like this where we’re always contenders.”
For Hamlin and JGR, speed isn’t the issue. After all, the Camry XSE has proven to be quite a formidable force, besting Ford and giving Chevy a run for their money over the first six races. He added, “It’s making sure we execute, and with the pit crew I’ve got this year, they’ve been on it. I feel like our speed is as good as it’s ever been. We’re running in the top five more and more than we ever have. Even though we might not finish there quite yet, I feel pretty good about it. I’m anxiously awaiting the next hour (qualifying).”
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NASCAR Richmond Weather Update: Wet Weather Tires Added Amidst Skewed Numbers Surrounding Possibility of Rain
Despite qualifying in 11th for the Toyota Owners 400, can Denny Hamlin make the most of his outing at a track he’s largely dominated?

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