Going into the Cup Series’ doubleheader weekend at Pocono Raceway, Denny Hamlin feels good about the No. 11 team’s chances at turning around and implementing the right setup for the second race on Sunday.
Does that confidence come from being a five-time winner on the 2.5-mile speedway?
“I think maybe logic works in reverse there because I don’t have more to learn there,” Hamlin said in a Friday Zoom press conference. “Maybe some of the newer drivers will make the bigger strides from one race to the next. … If the first (setup) doesn’t work, we’ll bounce back from a bad day if we were to have one. I think we’re going to be pretty solid both days.”
Hamlin was the most recent winner on the “Tricky Triangle,” earning the victory in last July’s race and giving Joe Gibbs Racing its fifth consecutive win at the track.
This weekend will see Hamlin make his 29th and 30th starts at Pocono.
Hamlin, who starts third, addressed how a bad race today could impact a team’s approach to Race No. 2 on Sunday.
“You will have a bad starting position (Sunday if a driver finishes outside the top 20, which will be inverted Sunday for the starting lineup), but I think the race is plenty long enough to where if your car is good, you’ll make up some positions,” Hamlin said. “Getting back to the front will be difficult. I think without a doubt it will be difficult for somebody to win both races simply because that track is a little bit harder to pass at unless you have a superb, dominant car over the field.
“Even if you have that, it’s going to be difficult to really pass guys simply because the big aero (push) that you have there when you’re behind someone. If you get out of there with a couple top-five (finishes), it’s a good weekend. If one of them can be a win, that’s a very, very good weekend. You definitely have to set your goals even though you want to win both. You can still get back up front with strategy in certain places, but I think that’s the goal. If it’s a bad day, you can essentially overhaul your car and put a new setup in and come up with new ideas and you’ll be starting up front. I think you can really bounce back. You could have flip-flop days between the two races.”
For Hamlin, a key to success at Pocono is a setup that gets “your car working right all through the (three) corners.
“The corners are all so different that it is challenging. If your crew chief does his job, he’s going to get you pretty close. The driver just has to do his job.”