Hamlin hopes to turn season around at Martinsville
Amanda Vincent is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
Over the last several years, Martinsville Speedway's victory lane has played host to an elite group, so elite that only two drivers have visited it in the last nine Sprint Cup races at the track -- Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. The last time someone other than Johnson or Hamlin celebrated in victory lane following a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville -- Spring 2006.
Jeff Gordon may lead all active drivers in wins at Martinsville with seven, but obviously, all those wins came several years ago. Johnson's six Martinsville wins and Hamlin's four, on the other hand, are more recent.
Hamlin's wins at Martinsville have been significantly more recent. After all, he's won the last three Cup races at Martinsville, in his home state of Virginia, coming into Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500. A win this weekend would make him only the second driver to win four-straight Sprint Cup races at Martinsville Speedway. The one driver who has already accomplished that feat -- Fred Lorenzen, who did so between 1963 and 1965.
Hamlin's 2011 season has gotten off to a shaky start to say the least. He's banking on a trip to Martinsville being the ticket to turning his season around. He enters the weekend 21st in points, the worst start to a season in his six-year Sprint Cup career. Partially a result of Joe Gibbs Racing's engine issues that have plagued the organization in the early season, Hamlin and the JGR No. 11 team have posted finishes of 21st, 11th, seventh, 33rd and 39th through the five races so far this season.
"The uplifting part is I'm going to some really, really good race tracks for us," Hamlin said. "With this new (points) system, you can get in (the Chase) based on wins if, for some reason, we can't work our way back to the top-10."
Given Hamlin's recent dominance at Martinsville, this could be the weekend he gets his season turned around.
Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 is slated to get underway at 1 p.m. ET, with live television coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX