Denny Hamlin Shooting for a Three-peat
As an avid basketball fan and representative of the Jordan Brand, Denny Hamlin is very familiar with the term three-peat. Led by basketball icon Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls ruled the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the 90's, putting together a pair of championship three-peats - winning the Association title three consecutive seasons from 1991 to 1993 and again from 1996 to 1998. Hamlin, who is the two-time defending winner of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series October event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, shoots for a three-peat of his own in Saturday's 15th annual Kroger 200. The Virginia native will once again 'jump' into the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, which will be adorned by a brand new primary sponsor that will be revealed later this week, and take 'flight' for 200 laps around the .526-mile oval.
Hamlin ran up front for the majority of the 2011 Kroger 200, leading a race-high 88 laps - including the final 14 - en route to his first career Truck Series victory. With the win, the talented wheelman became the 23rd driver in NASCAR history to win at least one race in each of its top three divisions during his career and just the fourth to accomplish the feat in the same season.
Last year, Hamlin had to work much harder to repeat as the race winner. Still in the heat of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship, Hamlin wanted to be ready to take to the track when final Cup Series practice began, which ran up against the end of Truck Series driver's meeting. So despite qualifying fifth, the veteran driver would be forced to come from the back of the field per NASCAR rules for missing the driver's meeting. Once inside the cockpit of his No. 51 Toyota Tundra, he methodically worked his way towards the front of the field and with six laps to go executed the perfect bump-and-run going into Turn 3. Once the home-state hero got out front, he clocked out over the final five laps and collected his sixth career NASCAR victory at the paperclip-shaped oval.
Hamlin, who won three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, is hoping that his No. 51 Tundra will be the first to cross the stripe when the checkered flag flies on Saturday and he can "Be Like Mike" and add a second three-peat to his resume.