Denny Hamlin had a career year in a number of statistical categories on his way to finishing fourth in the 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series standings.
Hamlin posted career numbers in top fives (19), top 10s (24) and average finish (9.5) in his first season with crew chief Chris Gabehart. Although he came up two wins shy of equaling his career season high mark of eight in 2010, Hamlin captured a number of big wins this season. Among them included his second career wins in both the Daytona 500 and Bristol night race along with a clutch win at ISM Raceway in the fall that advanced him to the Championship 4.
"Our year was fantastic in every way you can think of, and it just didn’t pan out in one race in our favor," Hamlin said.
That one race was the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he came home 10th. Hamlin was running third on Lap 221 of 267 but was forced to pit because his Toyota was overheating due to too much tape applied to the grille on the previous stop.
"Chris is really aggressive with his calls and he tried to add some tape there and it just overheated," Hamlin said. "A hell of a season by our guys. We gave ourselves a shot. At the end there we woke up and I really just wanted a chance to go after them after that pit stop, but with the overheating I was going to blow up so I had to make the right call and try to un-lap ourselves and try to get a caution and try for a miracle. It stinks, but also we had a great year."
Hamlin’s season began with an emotional win in the Daytona 500 just over a month after J.D. Gibbs passed away at the age of 49 after a lengthy fight against a degenerative neurological disease. Not only did J.D. help build Joe Gibbs Racing and run the day-to-day operations for 27 years, but he was instrumental in signing Hamlin to the team.
"It was just an unbelievable night, unbelievable crowd," team owner Joe Gibbs said about the Daytona 500 win. "The whole thing was just a special memory for me, and it’s one I’ll never forget, and it was the most important night of my occupational life."
Hamlin’s three other wins on the season came at Texas Motor Speedway in the spring, Pocono Raceway in July and Kansas Speedway in the playoffs. He also ranked fifth in stage points earned in 2019 with six stage wins and he extended his streak of winning at least one pole (3 in 2019) to eight.
The win at ISM Raceway in the playoffs gave Hamlin his second Championship 4 appearance. He came into the race 20 points below the cutoff due to him spinning and finishing 28th at Texas Motor Speedway the weekend prior. The Texas finish was his only outside the top 10 in the final seven races of the year.
"I’m excited about next year," Hamlin said. "I really am. It’s not like I’m going to go through the off season upset or sad. It’s like, I’m looking forward to having the momentum that we took through this year with a first year crew chief, and we’re going to win a lot, like a lot next year. I just think that we’ll have another opportunity. There’s no question."
Hamlin underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder after the season ended and is expected to fully recover in time for the start of the 2020 NASCAR season.
2019 Driver Season Reviews