Hamlin Hoping for Homecoming Rebound

Denny Hamlin

"We kind of use Martinsville as a springboard for our season." (Photo: Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin plans to turn his recent misfortunes around with another strong run at his home track in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

The Virginia native has scored four career wins at the half-mile track during his Sprint Cup career including the last three visits by NASCAR’s top division. He has a string of six straight top-five finishes and only one run outside the top 10 in 11 career starts.

It’s no wonder Hamlin can’t wait to get back to Martinsville.

“It’s really a combination of things,” Hamlin said of his success at Martinsville. “I have raced at Martinsville more than I have raced at any other track when you consider total laps. Growing up in Virginia I had the chance to race here in some other series and all that track time definitely gave me a comfort level at Martinsville. That carried over to trucks and Nationwide Series and now to the Cup Series.”

A good run Sunday is especially important given the way Hamlin has struggled in the early portion of the season and particularly the last two races at Bristol and Auto Club Speedway.

He limped home 33rd two weeks ago in Bristol and had an engine problem knock him out of last Sunday’s race in Fontana for a 39th-place finish.

After challenging for the title last season, Hamlin’s start to 2011 has been surprising and definitely frustrating for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

“For me, it’s been frustrating because Mike (Ford, crew chief) has worked hard to make sure we’re competitive each week, but we just haven’t had the luck,” Hamlin said. “Luckily, we have some good tracks for us coming up, and hopefully we can put together a few good weeks and get that first win. Martinsville is a great place to start that.”

Hamlin is trying to downplay the hiccups coming out of the gate and believes that like last year, his slow start can be overcome by simply performing the way he knows the team can.

“It’s important, for sure,” Hamlin said of Sunday’s race. “Our FedEx race team usually starts slow, and we kind of use Martinsville as a springboard for our season, but we’ve had good cars this season and haven’t been able to put the finishes together.”

Martinsville couldn’t come at a better time on the schedule for Hamlin and company and the team is looking for some home cooking – and his impressive previous record at the track – to get things pointed in the right direction.

“I feel really confident at this track and I know we bring great cars – those things together usually lead to success,” Hamlin said. “It’s also a lot of pressure because this is a race we circle as one where we expect to be really competitive.”

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