Iseason Preview:/I 11 Denny Hamlin
February 2, 2006 | 10:19 A.M. EST
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
2005 Rear View Mirror (Busch Series)
Top 5's: 1
Top 10's: 11
Hamlin surprised everyone with his strong showing at the end of the 2005 season when team owner Gibbs chose him to replace Jason Leffler in the No. 11 car. Although he finished fifth in the final Busch Series standings, Hamlin wasn't considered one of the sport's up and comers. But he changed all that with some impressive runs over the last few races of the Cup season, including winning the pole at Phoenix in November.
Hamlin is going to run both the Busch Series and the Cup circuit in 2006, which will help him get the necessary seat time. It will be interesting to see if he can build on the 2005 late season success. He's part of the much-heralded rookie class of 2006 and on paper, appears to have a shot at winning the ROY crown, as well as finding victory lane for the first time in his young Cup career. But as with all 25-year-old drivers with a new team, there will no doubt be growing pains.
Race to the Chase
Qualifying for the post-season is going to be tough for this team and if Hamlin can get into the Top 25, it would be a successful season.