Kansas: Denny Hamlin preview

DENNY HAMLIN Hitting the Lottery HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 24, 2008) -- Don't blame Denny Hamlin if he feels as if he's hit the lottery. He's the next Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver to pilot the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry with ...

Hitting the Lottery

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 24, 2008) -- Don't blame Denny Hamlin if he feels as if he's hit the lottery.

He's the next Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver to pilot the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry with Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

While the No. 18 team has run a partial Nationwide Series schedule of 16 races thus far this season, the team has racked up an astounding seven wins, 11 top-fives and 13 top-10s with drivers Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano at the controls. The No. 18 team has led an astounding 1,144 of the 2,828 laps available to them (40.45 percent).

In addition to those gaudy numbers, the No. 18 Z-Line Designs team has been particularly dominant of late, winning four of the last seven races and leading 599 of the 1,382 laps available (43.34 percent).

While the No. 18 team is on quite the hot streak, Z-Line Designs -- the San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture -- is riding a winning streak of its own as the familiar black and red colors have visited victory lane four of the last six times it's been entered. Hamlin's teammate, Busch, brought home wins for Z-Line Designs at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., O'Reilly Raceway Park near Indianapolis, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and most recently, last Saturday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. And before that stretch, Z-Line Designs went to victory lane at Fontana in February with Tony Stewart at the wheel and again at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in May with Hamlin.

So as Hamlin and Co. head to Kansas for Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300, they'll hope their efforts at the end of the day will show the winner of the Kansas Lottery as the No. 18 Z-Line Designs team.

Denny Hamlin, Driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Kansas

The Nationwide Series program at JGR has had a spectacular year, and the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota has been really strong of late. How much confidence do you have each time you get into this No. 18 car, like you will have at Kansas Speedway this weekend?

"There's no doubt I have a lot of confidence in all of these guys with the No. 18 Z-Line Designs team. Every time you get in one of their race cars, you know you have a great chance to win. It's just a team effort with all of those guys and everyone has pitched in. They are just putting together race cars that are so good when they leave the shop that they are already good when you unload."

What do you think it is about the JGR Nationwide Series program that makes it so strong?

"They've been building it for so long and with the addition of the help from Toyota, it's become a really strong team. It's not one individual there, right now. You can take people in and out, here and there, but at the end of the day we've got the whole package right now, and I'm just proud to be part of this team."

What do you like about racing at Kansas Speedway?

"Kansas is a great place to race. It's a track where the groove tends to move during the race to where you can usually find a place to make your car work. You'll have some guys that are able to run that high line while others are more comfortable on the lower line, and that usually leads to some good side-by-side racing. This is a track that all of the drivers like coming to because you can move around, and that puts a lot of the responsibility for making the car better with the driver."

What is the key to success at a track such as Kansas?

"As always, on these intermediate-type tracks, track position will be really important, and that means the entire team, driver included, will have to get it done on the track and on pit road. There is no room for error because each position is so important. The guys in the JGR Nationwide Series shop have been doing a great job of sending the race cars to the track fast, right off the truck. So I feel like we have a good chance of winning every time out, on any type of track."

Chassis No. 1861: This car made its first start of the season earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch at the controls. He led 18 laps before a cut right-front tire and subsequent accident ended his day, resulting in a 31st-place finish. Next, the car attempted to make the race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in May, but Denny Hamlin wrecked it during qualifying and the No. 18 team did not participate in the event. Since then, JGR worked on rebuilding the car in preparation for its run at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where Joey Logano started sixth and brought home a solid seventh-place finish. And in its most recent start, Busch used Chassis No. 1861 to dominate the Camping World RV Service 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as he led three times for a race-high 144 laps en route to his seventh Nationwide Series victory of the season. Chassis No. 1861 also ran three times last season, with its first race coming at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with former JGR driver Brad Coleman finishing a career-best second. The car returned to action in August at Michigan, where Coleman finished 15th. And finally, Tony Stewart drove this car to a seventh-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last November after leading a race-high 114 laps. Despite Stewart's dominance that day, contact midway through the race with lapped traffic hurt the car's aerodynamics.

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Brad Coleman , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing