Denny Hamlin will attempt to continue his winning streak at Kansas Speedway this weekend.
Hamlin, the defending winner of the Hollywood Casino 400 also won at the 1.5-mile track in July. But on Sunday, a victory in the Sunflower State would secure his position among the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway and the opportunity to win his first NASCAR Cup.
While three wins for the driver of the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota seem like a distinct possibility, Kansas wasn’t always among Hamlin’s favorites.
“I think it kind of started last year,” Hamlin said. “Kansas has not always been my strongest suit. I was terrified of Kansas probably a few years ago, but I showed up to Playoff race there last year and my car was just absolutely incredible how well it was handling, how good it was. I remember I started mid-pack, maybe in the 20s, and just drove to the front and dominated the day.
“From that point on, once I create that good database for Chris (Gabehart, crew chief) to work off of it seems like when we go back to the track, he’s made the proper adjustments for weather and conditions and things like that, car changes. He’s dialed in.
“Hopefully I have another really good handling car like I’ve had in the last few races. If so, I know it’s an important one for us. We could go the next two weeks and really shift our focus from Texas and Martinsville to putting all of our resources towards Phoenix, and that would certainly be a benefit for whoever locks in right off the bat.”
In the last 10 races, six of the drivers in the Round of 8 have been victorious at Kansas. Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson lead all current drivers with three wins each at Kansas. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr., each have two wins at the track.
Only Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman have yet to win at Kansas. Busch has a love-hate relationship with the track. He has competed in every Cup event at the track since it debuted in 2001. In his last six starts, Busch has only finished outside of the top 10 once. He’s finished second twice at Kansas in 2013 and 2017 and won the pole in 2011.
Bowman, since moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2016, has four top 10s with a career-high second in the spring 2019 race where he led 63 laps before finishing second.
But despite the strength of the current contenders, Hamlin isn’t concerned with the competition in the least.
“I think we can beat anyone any given week, but no, nobody in particular that I’m really worried about,” Hamlin said. “As long as we execute the way we know how, it really doesn’t matter if you pick the four strongest drivers at Phoenix – or the three other strongest drivers – it wouldn’t make a difference.
“We think it’s going to take a win to do it, and to win, you have to beat everyone, so there is not anyone in particular that I’m particularly scared about.”