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2012 Ride: No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry
2012 Primary Sponsor: Fedex
2012 Owner: Joe Gibbs
2012 Crew Chief: Darian Grubb
Stats: 36 Races, 5 Wins, 14 Top 5s, 17 Top 10s, 4 DNFs, 6th in Points.
Best Finish: 1st, Phoenix, Kansas, Bristol, Atlanta, New Hampshire
Average Finish: 12.8.
2012 Team Ranking: 1st of 3. This one is pretty easy: Hamlin was the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver to make the Chase in 2012 with Kyle Busch struggling through a tough season and Joey Logano (now headed to Penske Racing in 2013) failing to live up to the hype once again.
High Point: I would argue that there were three high points for Denny Hamlin this year. The first would be his win at Phoenix in the second race of the season (and second race) under new crew chief Darian Grubb. After a tough 2011 – by his own very high standards – Hamlin needed to start well in 2012; the team having jettisoned the only crew chief he’d ever known at the Sprint Cup level. The second would be the back-to-back wins at Bristol and Atlanta – two tracks he had never won at before – giving Hamlin great (but ultimately futile) momentum headed into the Chase. The third and final high point being the win in race two of the Chase at Loudon: a race he called a victory at on Twitter following a ho-hum first race in the playoffs at Chicagoland.
Low Point: The low point has to be the failure of the master switch at Martinsville which signaled the end of his Chase challenge in 2012. Having already overcome two pit road speeding penalties – driving back up through the field – the failure consigned Hamlin to a hugely dispiriting 33rd place finish and ended his Chase hopes.
Summary: Close, but not close enough, for the Virginia native. Overall, 2012 was an excellent season for Hamlin: A good bounceback after the 2011 season disappointment (which still wasn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things) that includes five more wins and a sixth place overall finish. Darian Grubb seamless integration as you would expect from a champion crew chief and his pit crew once again showed they’re amongst the best in the business on pit road.
Off Track News: Hamlin announced that he is soon to be a father – joining a growing trend in the sport – with his long-time partner Jordan Fish due to give birth next year.
2013 Outlook: Very positive. Expect more from Hamlin once teamed with Kenseth – a driver whose style is similar to his own.
2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: ??.
2012 Frontstretch.com Grade: A-.
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