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Hamlin Searches for 5th Richmond Victory


Denny Hamlin straps in for NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Richmond Raceway. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

RICHMOND, Va. — Something about racing at home always seems to bode well for Denny Hamlin.

In 34 starts, the Chesterfield native has four victories and 18 top-fives with his last victory coming in the spring race two years ago. He’s finished fourth or better in two of the last three races, including a runner-up to Chris Buescher last summer. The 43-year-old won at the o.75-mile oval for the first time back in 2009 and paces all active drivers with 2,226 laps led in the River City. In four races during the Next Gen era, Hamlin leads all drivers with 1,500 laps run inside the top 15.

If he can seal the deal on Sunday, it’d become his second track with five or more victories (Pocono Raceway).

“I’m excited for this race. All week I’ve been excited to get here and kind of see where we stack up,” Hamlin said in a Saturday press conference. “Certainly, with the history we have here over the last three or four races here at Richmond, being in contention — I feel pretty strongly about it. I would say that this is one that historically that I’ve always been good at, JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) has always been really good at, and then with the momentum it seems like our cars have, and our manufacturer – hopefully, we can tack on that little extra speed that we’ve shown here lately.”

Hamlin earned his 52nd NASCAR Cup Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago, leading 163 laps and surviving a wild tire-wear marathon. His second consecutive victory in Northeast Tennessee punched his ticket to the playoffs as he notched his only top-five of the season to date.

Last week at Circuit of the Americas, Hamlin and his No. 11 Toyota team prioritized stage points. After running the first portion of the race inside the top 15, crew chief Chris Gabehart had Hamlin run long in Stage 2 to earn the victory to secure 10 points and a playoff point. After getting off cycle, Hamlin ended the race on fresher tires and climbed back inside the top 15.

Only one top-five through six races isn’t necessarily indicative of Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing’s speed. With Martinsville Speedway and intermediates looming, Hamlin’s satisfied sitting fourth in points.


Denny Hamlin practices Saturday before the NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

“[Richmond] is a track always where we are starting to get into the swing of the tracks where we are going to be contenders every week,” he said. “This kind of kicks off that part of the schedule. I think we all kind of know where we are at now. We are six races in. We know what our strengths are. We know what our weaknesses are, and now we just have to capitalize when we go to tracks like this that we are always contenders.

“It is going to be an execution game. It is not going to be a speed game. We will have that. It is making sure we execute. With the pit crew I have this year, they’ve been on it. I feel like our speed has been as good as it’s ever been. We are running inside the top five more than we ever have, even though we have not finished there quite yet. I feel pretty good about it.”

Hamlin ended up narrowly missing the final round of qualifying and will start the Toyota Owners 400 in 11th. But unlike previous years, Sunday’s race is set for nighttime — setting up a primetime Easter Sunday duel. It’ll be the first Richmond night race since 2021 and the first spring night race since 2019.

That said, Hamlin doesn’t expect any changes to the racing, even though it’ll be the second short-track race with the new package including a 3-inch spoiler.

“For as long as I’ve been doing it, it is still Richmond. It still wears out tires quite a bit,” Hamlin said of day racing versus night racing. “Maybe the tire wear is slightly less, but if anything, this new tire has more wear than our previous Richmond tires have had. I do still think it is going to be a best handling car and driver type of thing that will matter.”

Sunday’s holiday race is set for 7 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Kyle Larson will start from the pole and is the defending winner.



Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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