USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

Denny Hamlin had kicked off the season in style when he swerved into Victory Lane at the Busch Light Clash. He had grabbed the 2024 season opener by the neck, building expectations for the season. But his crown slipped in the following races. Getting entangled in several crashes, he performed poorly in Daytona and Atlanta. Then he improved a little in Las Vegas, finishing in the top 10. And now, he’s earned a front row start. But there’s a catch.

Toyotas have not fared well in shorter tracks. In 2023, Hamlin secured the only Toyota win at a 1.5-mile track in Bristol. Denny Hamlin also has bitter memories at Phoenix Raceway. Now things seem to be looking up for both Toyota and Hamlin in the upcoming Phoenix race with Hamlin starting on pole position. And yet, Hamlin is not too ecstatic about it.

Denny Hamlin is cautiously treading the Phoenix topic


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Hamlin turned around both his and Toyota’s fortune on Saturday. Leading the first and qualifying rounds of the qualifying race, he earned the pole position for the Shriner’s Children 500 race. Hamlin had an average speed of 132.655 mph. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Ty Gibbs, secured the second position (132.227 mph).

Read More: Denny Hamlin Claims NASCAR’s Short Track Package Can Be Solved With “One Phone Call”

Recently Hamlin talked to the press ahead of the Phoenix challenge. He did not express any pole winner’s glory, though. Fox journalist Bob Pockrass asked, “Do you feel like you have the car to beat?” In response, Hamlin set some realistic goals for his team.

“Well, we’ve been, I mean I’ve had practices, mostly over the last two years, we’ve been about 3/10ths off in practice. Then we end up racing between 5th and 10th. So for yesterday, it’d only be a 10th off. It tells me that we should be at least 5th or 10th place car tomorrow, we should be better than that.”

Hamlin further acknowledged that no trophy is going to be handed to them on a plate. “There were definitely cars better than us. But you know, give my team some time to think about it overnight. We have some dialogue, think about things, and how we’re gonna adjust. We certainly have the capability of getting there, to be in the best.”


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Two Toyota drivers from JGR are going to start in the front row in Phoenix. Chevrolet is not letting go so soon, as Chase Elliott’s Chevrolet ride secured the third sport with 132.144 mph. Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 car had been weakest on the Phoenix oval. But with the new aero rules package under motion, Hamlin believes the difference is visible.

Denny Hamlin gives brownie points to the new aero package


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Racing teams had the most time testing the new aero rules for oval tracks measuring 1.058 miles or lesser in distance in Friday’s practice. As part of the package, Cup cars are using a simplified diffuser. Other perks are derived from last year, including short track/road course splitter stuffers, removal of engine panel strakes, a 3-inch spoiler, and simplified diffuser strakes.


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Denny Hamlin observed the difference with the new setting. “I would say that it was probably a little bit better in traffic, very small from what I could tell, nothing earth-shattering.” He further said, “If they’re equal cars, obviously it’s going to be tough to get around anyone, but I think it seems like package-wise, maybe just a slight bit of change better.”

Starting in the pole position, Denny Hamlin may replicate his Clash fortune in Phoenix this year. Buckle your seat belts and wait a few hours to see what pans out.