The Frontstretch: Sunday's Win First of Many For Denny by Thomas Bowles -- Monday June 12, 2006

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Sunday's Win First of Many For Denny

Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Monday June 12, 2006

 

Sometimes, destiny comes calling when you least expect it.

The story of Denny Hamlin reminds you so much of the inspirational one told by Carl Edwards on his rise to success with Roush Racing. Four years ago, Hamlin couldn’t even dare to dream of being a winning driver in the Nextel Cup Series; he was just struggling to continue to race. With his family out of money and everything refinanced to the hilt, Hamlin was staring at the possibility of getting out of racing altogether, before a fellow competitor gave him another chance.

Like Edwards, Hamlin is now making the most of that second chance that led him to strike gold in Nextel Cup, threatening to turn his 2006 season into the kind that will be etched into the rookie record books for years to come. With two victories already this season (including the Bud Shootout), Hamlin’s got as good a shot as anyone since 2000 to break the rookie record of three Nextel Cup wins in a season set by his teammate, Tony Stewart. Not only that, but the realistic possibility exists Hamlin could become the first rookie to make the season ending Chase for the Nextel Cup championship (he currently sits 9th in points).

Yet, the Chevrolet driving Hamlin remains humble, with a relaxed attitude that has continued to make him a fan favorite on tour similar to his Ford driving counterpart Edwards. Just listen to what he was thinking when the race was red flagged with just 10 laps remaining, giving all challengers one last opportunity to unseat Hamlin, who had battled back from a tire problem to retake the lead on lap 177 for what would be the final time.

"Actually, I was thinking about what I was going to eat for dinner and how soon I was going to get home," said Hamlin. "I did not think about the race whatsoever. I knew that our car was that good."

Ironically, Hamlin’s win comes during the one-year anniversary week for crew chief Mike Ford’s arrival to the #11 team. At the time, Ford was hired to turn around a sinking ship that had driver Jason Leffler at the helm, but it’s Hamlin he’s helped the most with his knowledge, patience, and chemistry with the 25-year-old Virginian. Add to that the support Hamlin’s gained from teammate and defending champion Tony Stewart, and the Virginian has the building blocks in place for a long and successful career.

The first building block in that winning foundation was laid Sunday afternoon at Pocono; but rest assured, there will be many more to come.

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