Daytona Shootout: Denny Hamlin preview

Hamlin in the Budweiser Shootout: This weekend will mark Hamlin's fifth start in the prestigious pre-season event at Daytona International Speedway and he can hold his head knowing that he's one of a select few in the field to have a win in this...

Hamlin in the Budweiser Shootout:

This weekend will mark Hamlin's fifth start in the prestigious pre-season event at Daytona International Speedway and he can hold his head knowing that he's one of a select few in the field to have a win in this race to his credit. Hamlin made his first start, and collected his first win, in the Budweiser Shootout in February of 2006. Hamlin had only seven career Cup starts to his name as he prepared to embark on a record-setting rookie season that would start with the 2006 Daytona 500.

The first order of business, however, was the Shootout -- a race he earned entry into by virtue of a pole win at Phoenix International Raceway in Nov. of 2005. Not only did Hamlin and the #11 FedEx team show up for the race, they showed what they could do as Hamlin parlayed a great car, great drive and some well-timed help into a first win behind the wheel of a Cup car and the first ever Shootout win by a Cup rookie.

In 2007, Hamlin arrived in Daytona as the defending race winner armed with a lifetime invite and with three pole wins from the 2006 season under his belt. After pulling the last spot on the grid at the Bud Shootout draw party, Hamlin had a relatively anonymous night -- finishing 17th as his teammate Tony Stewart stamped his authority on the race and took the trophy.

Hamlin qualified for the 2008 edition by winning a fifth-career Pole Award at Martinsville Raceway in April but damage suffered to the new #11 FedEx Camry on lap 27 kept him from posing a serious threat to the leaders. Though he reached the bumper of his then teammate Tony Stewart with the laps counting down, he was unable to push Stewart to the lead and ultimately fell back to ninth. Hamlin finished 13th in 2009 despite having one of the strongest cars in the field. He pushed his way to the lead on lap four and ran in the top-ten for the majority of the evening. It wasn't until he was collected by Jimmie Johnson during the green, white, checkered finish that he was officially taken from contention.

BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT CHASSIS -- JGR 200: The FedEx team will unload Chassis JGR 200 for the Budweiser Shootout. Though entirely rebuilt since then, this car's lone start was a 26th place finish at Daytona in the summer of 2008.

ALONG FOR THE RIDE IN DAYTONA: The #11 FedEx Express Toyota will carry the number 1973 on the B-posts for Saturday's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. 1973 marks FedEx's first year of operations and celebrates the company once again being named to FORTUNE's 2010 Best Companies to Work for list. Thanks to the commitment of over 275,000 people, FedEx is proud to be a FORTUNE Blue Ribbon Company. Through a tough economic climate, our team members have shown the same dedication and diligence that has put FedEx on the list 12 of the past 13 years. Thanks for delivering excellence time and again.

HAMLIN CONVERSATION -- BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT:

This week will be the first time you have been in the car since Homestead -- is that the longest time out of the car for you?: "It is. Seems like a long time and it has been a good break but now that the season is here I am really eager to get going. We made the decision not to test this offseason at all. It wasn't a decision we took lightly but we really wanted to take what we learned last season work on it through the offseason, and then start fresh at Daytona. I know it's motivated me to come out totally focused and I know that's true for the team also."

What about the Shootout format changes for 2010?: "This year's Shootout is shaping up to be the best yet. It's a great field that includes not only drivers who have been successful over the past season but a group of drivers who have shown they can win at Daytona. I think the racing will be that much better for having a lot of guys who really know their way around this track. There will be a lot of action and we'll probably see incidents like we always do but there is only one goal in this race and that is to win it. That element of the shootout will never change."

How is your knee feeling?: "Been better for sure but my range of motion is almost 100% and the discomfort lessens a little bit each day. I expect that by the time I get in the car, while probably a little uncomfortable, it won't be an issue for me. I am using it as a motivating force."

Do you like starting the season with an event like this?: "I think it's a great way to start the season. Coming to Daytona is different than going to any other track because of the atmosphere that you have with Speedweeks. Having the shootout before the Daytona 500 makes some extra work for the team but there is a lot of pride that goes into running well and winning the event so it's all worth it. The Shootout is a part of the history of this place and it helps get you ready for the week ahead, when the focus changes to the points schedule and the long season ahead."

Talk about that night in 2006 when, as a rookie, you surprised a lot of people and won this event: "Honestly I still think about that night and what a turning point it was for me and this team. We were pretty much unknown coming into the 2006 season. I remember being extremely nervous as we went through those last restarts and having Tony and Dale Jr. right there at the end. It was an awesome night and I remember thinking how happy I was for the guys on the team, given what they had been through the season before. It didn't sink in for me that I had won until I saw my parents in Victory Lane. As cool as it was to win, I think the effect it had on our team and confidence going to that season was the bigger deal. Even though it wasn't a points race, it helped us get off to a great start. I get asked about my favorite racing memory and that Shootout win is right up there -- it always will be."

-source: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin