Despite a rough outing at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway over the weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin is easily one of the hottest drivers headed into NASCAR’s postseason. He, along with several other race front-runners, was involved in a late-race, multi-car accident – not of his doing – the 29th-place finish that resulted snapped an impressive streak of six consecutive top-five finishes for the four-time race winner.
Hamlin has led 373 laps in the No. 11 JGR Toyota with wins in the Daytona 500 and at Texas, Pocono-2 and then two weeks ago at Bristol from the pole position. The combined work of his 13 top-five finishes this year and the four victories has him ranked third in the Monster Energy Series points standings as the series holds its last regular season race this week at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a venue where the championship challenger has never won.
Hamlin has come close, however.
He has five top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 13 starts at Indianapolis with a best showing of third place – in 2014 and last year. He’s finished among the top-five in four of the last five races at Indianapolis and his 37 laps led last year is the most time he’s had out front at the track.
A good showing at Indy would certainly boost his momentum heading into the 10-race championship Playoff that begins next week in Las Vegas. Among the other four-race winners – JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. – Hamlin has had the most recent success.
It’s been 10 races since Truex claimed his fourth trophy at the Sonoma, Calif. road course and it’s been 12 races since Busch last won – at the first Pocono, Pa. race of the summer.