No one messes with Hamlin at Texas
Sometimes speed is all you need. A crafty pit strategy also helps.
That was the story of the afternoon for Denny Hamlin at last year’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Driving his No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, he put himself at a disadvantage in Stage 1 with a pit-road speeding penalty and again in the final stage with an uncontrolled tire sanction.
But in a shrewd move, Hamlin used a fuel-only (no tires) pit stop during a late caution to grab the lead and drive to his second victory of the season (after his win in the Daytona 500), his third at TMS and the 33rd of his Cup career. Afterward, he said speed was the key to overcoming his mistakes.
“Just a fast car,” he said. “They gave me fast car and one that could pass anyone in the field.”
Ultimately, he’d go on to score four more wins in 2019 – the second time he’d won at least six races in a season – and advance to the Championship 4 round of the playoffs for the first time since 2014. But his 10th place finish, despite starting from pole, in the finale at Homestead sank any hopes for a Cup title and he wound up ending the season fourth in points.
He’ll return to the 1.5-mile oval at Fort Worth to face off against Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, among others, in the 2020 O’Reilly’s Auto Parts 500, which airs Sunday, July 19, on NBC Sports Network.
Full Name: James Dennis Alan Hamlin
Birth date: Nov. 18, 1980
Birthplace: Tampa, Fla.
Height/weight: 6 feet/160 pounds
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Car: No. 11 Toyota Camry
Honors & achievements: Daytona 500 winner (2016, 2018, 2019); Cup All-Star Race winner (2015); Cup Series Rookie of the Year (2006); first and only rookie to qualify for the Cup playoffs (2006)