Hamlin Sees Changes Ahead

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford haven't had the same success as last season. (Photo: Getty Images)

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After a disappointing follow-up to last year’s Chase performance, Denny Hamlin believes there will be a shake-up of sorts at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Hamlin went down to the wire in last year’s championship battle before finally coming up short of running down Jimmie Johnson in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Despite not winning the title, Hamlin came into 2011 as a clear favorite to continue his surge and once again challenge for the crown.

However, things haven’t turned out that way to say the least.

Hamlin has struggled with a variety of mechanical issues, mistakes and most prominently engine problems since the start of the season. Although he made the Chase as one of two wild car entries, he hasn’t been a factor since the start of the playoffs and fell to the bottom of the 12-driver field where he currently sits 79 points behind leader Carl Edwards heading into Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

All the frustration has led Hamlin to the conclusion that significant changes have to be made within the race team in order to return to championship contention in 2012.

"I think it's getting everyone at the shop to buy into what I feel like we need to work on and I think that they are,” Hamlin said. “We had some big meetings this week and I felt like everyone's on board. I think that you're going to see a change in performance because of it.

“It's going to take some time to get it right, but my goal at this point is to end 2011 like we did '09 where we were steadily getting better throughout the Chase. We started terribly and every week from the midpoint of the Chase on, we started making ground. We won Homestead and that kind of propelled us into 2010. At this point, I'm trying to look to get that same momentum at the end of this year.”

Hamlin thinks the changes that need to be made aren’t all of the mechanical or engineering variety. He feels a change in mentality across the board is also necessary for improvement.

“Obviously, when we talk about things that we want to change within the organization, you've got to get all the drivers to buy into it,” he said. You've got to get the people in charge to buy into it for things to make a change. We're doing that right now. It sucks that we had to get to this point, but it turn hopefully it's going to make everyone better."

While Hamlin is on board with finding out how to fix the problems inside his race team, he’s not pointing any fingers in regard to the frustrations of this season to the manufacturer.

"Well, there's a lot of reasons,” Hamlin explained. “Some of the issues we have within Gibbs are not Toyota issues, it's stuff that we have going on internally. I think that all of a sudden these next few weeks when I feel like we're going to run better, it won't look as bad. We will start to make a turn. We've got to get to that point. I wouldn't pin our results on Toyota."

Hamlin is hoping that by addressing the issues head on as well as communicating better within the organization will right the ship and allow the No. 11 Toyota to once again be a formidable force in the series.

“As far as heading our program in the direction it needs to go in and I feel like that communication -- I kind of shut down to them a little bit during the summer,” Hamlin said. “Being so frustrated with the mechanical issues that we were having, the blown engines and everything. I wasn't giving up on them, but it was a sense of I was just like, 'What does it matter how fast our cars are if we can't finish,' type of attitude.

“That's not the way to approach it by any means. Opening that communication back up, it's going to send us in a different direction and I think that direction is what's going to make our cars faster."

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