INDIANAPOLIS — firstname.lastname@example.org
Denny Hamlin knows the history, but he’s not quite ready to make the call.
Fourteen of the previous 18 winners of the annual Sprint Cup Series visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway have won championships.
Hamlin would like to make that 15 of 19 after a victory in Sunday’s Crown Royal 400.
He’ll get a good start on his competition in the race by starting on the pole. Hamlin’s lap at 182.763 mph easily held off Carl Edwards to claim the top starting position.
And as far as the championship? Hamlin is off to a good start there as well with two wins already this season and is fifth in series points.
A fast car, a strong team and a great season all add up to Hamlin approaching this Indy race with more enthusiasm than ever before.
“I think you put me out front on the last run, no one is going to get around me, I don’t think,” Hamlin said. “So, it’s all going to be about maintaining track position and maintaining the balance of your car.
“Now, I’ve been good here before and not been able to pass, and there’s always about two cars in every single race here that’s capable of passing and everyone else just kind of runs where they’re at.
“So, I think it’s hard to point to the outfield right now, but we’ve got the bat halfway raised.”
Some of Hamlin’s toughest competition on Sunday may well be his teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.
Logano’s was among the fastest cars in both practice sessions Saturday morning and qualified third. Busch will line up seventh.
Aric Almirola qualified fourth and Greg Biffle – fastest in the final practice – will start fifth. Series points leader Matt Kenseth will line up 10th.
“I think a few of the Hendrick cars are pretty good,” Hamlin said of others he thought would be strong on Sunday. “I think my teammates, Kyle and Joey, will be pretty good.
“Any time they qualify good, it’s pretty indicative of how fast their car is. I think they’re going to be the guys we’re going to be battling.”
In the past, drivers who have performed well at Pocono – a very flat track like Indy – have also typically done well at the Brickyard.
Logano, who earned his second career Cup win last month at Pocono, hopes the performance translates.
“There’s not an easy part here. It’s really tricky around here,” Logano said. “I felt like we had a decent lap. The car wasn’t quite perfect, but we’ve been working on the thing really hard.
“It’s getting better and it’s getting closer. Hopefully, by the time the race starts we’ll be good.”
Edwards has been struggling to get into the top 10 in points and a good run or win this weekend would greatly improve last year’s championship runner-up improve his chances.
This is Edwards’ first race with a new crew chief, Chad Norris, who replaces Bob Osborne. Osborne has taken a different position at Roush Fenway Racing because of an unnamed medical condition.
“This is huge for us, and I think it’s a testament to our whole team and everybody at the shop and the ability to rally around a cause,” Edwards said. “After (New Hampshire) we were all scratching our heads.
“We met on Monday and Bob finally let us in on all the stuff he was struggling with and we realized two things about him – how tough he is and how humble a guy he is.
“To come here less than two weeks later and have a qualifying effort like this I think says a lot. I know it’s just one lap; anything can happen in the race, but it’s really good.”