Denny Hamlin: "No domination in our sport right now"

Denny Hamlin’s roller coaster 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season hit another peak with his Coke 600 victory and he may finally have found the consistency that has eluded him.

Denny Hamlin: "No domination in our sport right now"
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The good news for Hamlin is while he got off to troubling start this year – he was 25th in the series standings five races into the season – his two victories since and more consistent finishes have kept him in a strong playoff position.

Hamlin is now tied with Ross Chastain and William Byron for the most wins this season (each has two) but no one driver has risen dramatically above the others in terms of playoff points thanks to the across-the-board parity and up-and-down performances produced with the Next Gen car.

Typically, drivers who win – especially multiple times – tend to gravitate to the top of the points standings. Just over halfway through the 26-race regular season, four drivers with victories are ranked 13th or lower in points.

No dominant driver with new car

Two drivers in the top-five in points – Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. – have yet to win a points-paying race this season.

“I didn’t really like my playoff spot simply because we didn’t have very many playoff points, but no one does,” Hamlin said. “There’s been no domination in our sport right now from anyone. It’s hard to find any consistency from anyone. It’s allowed the playoff points to get spread out all over the place.

“There’s not two to three guys, like in the past, that’s got 40 (playoff points). Probably won’t have that this year. I think it’s going to be more wide-open. It’s going to force the guys who have been up front all year to have to run every round.”

Leading the way

Entering this weekend’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Chastain and Byron are tied with the most playoff points at 13 apiece.

Hamlin now has 12 while there are seven other drivers with six or more. Clearly, no one has separated themselves from the pack in terms of the playoffs.

In many years, Hamlin’s erratic season may have already left him trailing badly in terms of playoff positioning, but even 14 races into 2022, he still has a legitimate shot at winning his first championship despite the slow start.

“Every year it’s like a new opportunity, right? We’ve gone into the playoffs so many times as the best car, running well. This year has just gone so awful for the first third that you never know,” he said.

“This could be the year that we sleep our way (to the championship). I don’t know.”

For now, Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team will take the improved performance and results. His victory Sunday at Charlotte gave him consecutive top-five finishes for the first time this year.

“I already got a couple wins in the first third of the season,” he said. “Especially with us still working to try to get good at all race tracks, I really think I’m pretty encouraged about where we’re at.”

His team owner, Joe Gibbs, agreed.

“The wins, we got off to a slow start this year. We haven’t had the wins,” he said. “I do think over the last three weeks we’re starting to find our way.

“I think with the new car it’s just a different package. Other people have done a better job than we did earlier. So we’re playing a little bit of catch-up.”

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