Already locked into the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, crew chief Chris Gabehart likes the lineup of tracks Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx team will face in that round.
Hamlin, who is coming off his seventh win of the season at Talladega, has won a combined 11 times at the tracks in the third round of the Playoffs – Kansas, Texas and Martinsville.
"Well, it’s racing so anything can happen, but when I looked at the Playoffs, I definitely looked at the second round as going to be the most challenging in terms of tracks and the first and really the third round as our best rounds," Gabehart said. "Most people would traditionally look at Denny Hamlin and circle that first round as his strongest, you know with Darlington, Richmond and Bristol. The fact of the matter is you look at the third round, we’ve won the last two races at Kansas. We have won a race at Texas with this rules package and you know, Denny always runs very well at Martinsville. I really like the racetracks the way they line up."
Hamlin has combined to lead 210 laps en route to the win in the last two races at Kansas and is the only multiple winner in the nine races at 1.5-mile tracks this season. Hamlin won at Homestead-Miami Speedway in June and his last win at Texas came in the 2019 spring race. When it comes to Martinsville, Hamlin is a five-time winner there and has recorded three top fives in his last four starts.
"I feel like we got a really good read on what we need at Kansas and Texas," Gabehart said. "Then again, like I said at Martinsville, I feel confident we’ll find our way with a with a shot to run really well at the end of that race as well."
But before the No. 11 team starts the Round of 8, they will look to add more Playoff points in the final race in the Round of 12 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL where Hamlin will start from the pole.
"There’s seven playoff points out there to get and we’re going to try to go get them because we may need them in the third round," Gabehart said. "But the reality is yes, it takes a huge weight off of our shoulders knowing that we’re locked in going into such a chaotic event."
Another reason it’s good to be locked in is because of the forecast this weekend for Charlotte.
"This is the only weekend in the Playoffs where raindrops will not affect when the start time," Gabehart said. "I can’t imagine having to try to advance through to the Round of 8 with a rain race, the pressure that would bring on the race team and the driver. I am definitely glad we don’t have to worry about any of that."