Joe Gibbs Racing press release
Shootout Preview: Denny Hamlin will kick off the 2012 NASCAR season in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway. The season-opening 75-lap event will pit the top-25 drivers in the 2011 Sprint Cup Series standings and past Daytona winners against each other under the lights on the high-banked, 2.5-mile Florida oval.
Saturday’s race marks Hamlin’s seventh start in the prestigious event. The 31-year-old Virginia native became the only rookie to win the Shootout in 2006, leading 16 of 72 laps en route to victory lane. Hamlin was entered in the event in 2006 by way of his pole award win at Phoenix in November 2005.
Hamlin has three top-10 finishes in six previous Bud Shootout starts, including a fifth-place result in 2010 and ninth-place finish in 2008. Hamlin crossed the finish line first one year ago in the Shootout, but his pass for the lead was deemed below the yellow ‘out of bounds’ line, leading to a penalty and 12th-place finish.
The race also marks Hamlin’s first chance to work with new crew chief Darian Grubb, who joined the FedEx Racing team in December 2011 after helping guide Tony Stewart to last year’s Sprint Cup Series championship.
HAMLIN CONVERSATION – Budweiser Shootout:
How do you expect the restrictor-plate racing to play out during Speedweeks? “If I had to guess right now and they lined us up to race I’d say that you’d see a pack for most of the day. You’re going to see breakaways here and there but I think that for the most part the pack can run fast enough to keep up with the two-car tandem. The two-car tandem will get out there a little bit but I think that if you get a big enough pack with 20 or 30 cars they will eat up a tandem pretty quick.”
What did you take from last year that will help you this season? “It was a trying year for everyone with the team and coming back I feel like we’re stronger than what we’ve ever been. We’ve made a lot of changes within our organization. Not just the crew chief, but a lot of people. We have a new spotter this year. All three teams have new spotters. There’s a lot of internal changes that’s gone on at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and I feel like we’ve got good personnel. The way that we’re doing things within our shop I feel like is heading in the right direction. I think because of that you’re going to see a lot more success from everyone at (Joe) Gibbs (Racing).”