Denny Hamlin doesn’t want to get ahead of himself. He knows he isn’t “officially” locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But with a victory already in hand this season, he knows under the new Chase format, the odds are good he’s in the elimination-style playoff field.
When the Sprint Cup teams arrive at Martinsville Speedway for the Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot™ 500 on October 26 Hamlin figures if he has survived the cut to the final eight championship contenders, he will be in perfect position for a title run.
The Eliminator Round, the third round of the Chase, begins at Martinsville and a win in any of the three races in that round guarantees a spot in the Sprint Cup Series Championship on November 16.
“Martinsville is going to be a key race, especially for our 11 team,” Hamlin said recently during a break in a mid-week test session. “I think you find yourself in a place where you have won a lot of races before, and if you can somehow win that Chase race (Martinsville) you are going to be moving on to that big round.
“So we are excited about how the Chase format plays out, the race tracks that are set up for us in those last two segments. We just got to make sure we get there.”
Hamlin has put up some phenomenal numbers at Martinsville Speedway since he made his Sprint Cup debut on the half-mile oval in the fall of 2005. In fact, he was good right off the bat, qualifying fifth and finishing eighth in his inaugural effort.
He came back with a second in the fall of 2006 that started a string of nine consecutive top-10 finishes.
Hamlin grabbed his first Martinsville checkered flag in the spring of 2008 and then reeled off three consecutive wins, starting with the fall event in 2009. He dominated Martinsville in 2010, sweeping the Sprint Cup events. Although he hasn’t won here since the fall of 2010, he’s still strong with three top-10s in the last six races and was the pole-sitter for the Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot™ 500 last fall.
“We hope (our Martinsville experience) helps this fall. It’s been part of the Chase eight or nine times now so you kind of figure out the ins and outs of it, the mistakes you’ve made and learn from them,” said Hamlin, who wound up seventh a year ago in the Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot™ 500. “And obviously it’s one of the race tracks that we look at going into a Chase race there at Martinsville as a place we can capitalize.”
Martinsville Speedway PR