Hamlin Riding Wave of Momentum Into Charlotte Featured

Hamlin Riding Wave of Momentum Into Charlotte Getty Images for NASCAR

Denny Hamlin rolls into the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday riding a wave of momentum. The Virginia driver sits fourth in points following a pair of top five finishes at Darlington Raceway – including his second victory of the season on Wednesday.

The pair of races at Darlington Raceway marked NASCAR’s return from the COVID-19 hiatus that started following the race at Phoenix Raceway in March. The opportunity is unique as NASCAR typically only visits a track for one or two points races a season. Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, spoke to SpeedwayDigest.com on the uniqueness of visiting a track three times and how it will help when visiting Darlington a third time later in 2020.

“Being that we get to come back just a few short days later in conditions that will be more like the Southern 500 later this year, myself and the engineers took the opportunity and really swung the bat hard,” said Gabehart. “We didn't come back with a setup anything like what we raced Sunday even though we were good Sunday. It was all about trying to learn for the fall, just believing in your guys, your tools.  I'm just so proud of my engineers and our process at Joe Gibbs Racing, how we worked through it.  I had all the confidence in the world to really swing the bat. It worked out.”

Hamlin, winning the season opening Daytona 500 in February, has only two finishes outside the top 10 through six cup series races. The No. 11 Toyota driver joined the media and spoke the importance of having good momentum with events so close together.

“It’s good. When you’re winning, it means you’re doing some things right. I think being able to go right back to a race track three or four days later, it allows you to keep that momentum for an extended amount of time when it comes to races,” said Hamlin. “I like it. I’m voicing out loud here that this is something I’d like to see for years to come – to have multi races in a week. This is something that can really help our sport, I believe personally. Like I said, there’s so many loops you are going to have to jump through to get it done. This is a good thing for our sport right now. To make up some of these races, it might not be at the same race track – we’re putting on a show for the people at home that millions of people that have been waiting on us to get on track.”

HAMLIN’S FINISHES BY TRACK:

TRACK

START

FINISH

DAYTONA

21

1

LAS VEGAS

4

17

FONTANA

28

6

PHOENIX

3

20

DARLINGTON 1

10

5

DARLINGTON 2

16

1


As for visiting Darlington back-to-back, as the series will do the same at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Hamlin discussed how he and Gabehart worked on improving the set-up for the second race. He also provided an outlook on how the previous races at Darlington will help when the series returns in the Fall for the Southern 500.

“We wholesaled our car. I won’t giveaway any secrets, but my conversation with my crew chief on Monday was, ‘Okay we have a third-place car, we can try to tweak on it and maybe things fall our way and we can win the race on Wednesday,” Hamlin said. “Or, the Southern 500 will be back here later in the year, do we want to come up with a completely different setup, new ideas and see if it’s better? And, it was better. I’m glad we took the chance. He said I was very nervous, not me, but the crew chief said he was nervous two nights ago thinking we could run really bad with this. It’s out of the box for us, but it was certainly better and when we go back for the Southern 500 in a couple months, that’s the direction we’ll be heading towards.”

The series will return to action at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. The event, airing live on FOX and PRN radio, will take place at 6:00 p.m. ET. Qualifying for NASCAR’s biggest event will take place at 2:00 p.m. ET. on Sunday.

Brett Winningham

Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.