Hamlin crowned rookie of the year

Hamlin crowned rookie of the year

Denny Hamlin's crew just won a big bet against the No. 20 team of Tony Stewart. The two crews had wagered as to whether or not Hamlin could finish better in points his rookie season than Tony Stewart. Denny Hamlin. Photo by Kurt ...

Denny Hamlin's crew just won a big bet against the No. 20 team of Tony Stewart. The two crews had wagered as to whether or not Hamlin could finish better in points his rookie season than Tony Stewart.

Denny Hamlin.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.

In Stewart's rookie year, he was fourth. Hamlin leaves Homestead third, and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year.

"It was fun to be competitive with Tony," said Hamlin. "We were able to finish higher in the points than he did his rookie year. But I'd trade it for just his stats alone when I'm done with my career."

Hamlin earned 20 top-10 finishes in 2006 including two victories and was the only rookie contender to compete in this year's Chase for the Championship.

He finished third in his second career start at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He rallied back from a pit road miscue to secure his place in the final point standings.

"I was fine," Hamlin said of the mistake on pit road. "As long as I didn't key the mic I was fine. I had a lot of emotions going on because we had just preached 'Nice, easy, smooth stop, nothing fast' and we dropped the jack before the lug nuts were ready. That was very frustrating because I had spent 170 laps trying to get to the front from starting 33rd and had finally got in the top-seven or eight and had that happen."

Hamlin now holds the best championship finish by a rookie in NASCAR's modern era.

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Series NASCAR-CUP