Denny Hamlin Anticipates Improvement at his Historically Challenging Oval

Published Categorized as Cars No Comments on Denny Hamlin Anticipates Improvement at his Historically Challenging Oval
Denny Hamlin sees progress coming at his “by far weakest oval”

Throughout much of the previous season, Toyota vehicles encountered difficulties on shorter tracks, with Hamlin securing the manufacturer’s lone victory on an asphalt track measuring a mile or less (the fall Bristol race).

The team, particularly led by Hamlin, grappled with speed issues at Phoenix Raceway, which holds significant importance as the venue for the annual series championship race.

This makes Hamlin’s and Toyota’s performance on Friday all the more noteworthy.

Hamlin notably achieved the second-fastest average speed, with Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek also breaking into the top five. Among drivers completing at least 10 consecutive laps, three Toyota drivers – Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, and Nemechek – led the pack.

Reflecting on his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team’s showing on Friday, Hamlin expressed satisfaction, noting a departure from their usual practice deficits at the track.

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin (Credits: NASCAR)

“We made significant changes to my car this time around. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been experimenting with different setups to improve our performance on this track,” Hamlin explained. “Historically, this track has been the No. 11 car’s weakest oval.”

He emphasized the importance of progress over solely assessing individual car adjustments: “Seeing other Toyotas performing well is a positive sign. It’s not just about how the car feels aerodynamically – we’re not adept enough to discern that. It’s about whether it translates to improved speeds. We’re trying a different approach than before, and it seems to be paying off.”

Friday’s practice session marked the first opportunity for most teams to test the new aero rules introduced for all road courses and oval tracks measuring 1.058 miles or less.

These regulations include simplified diffusers, the adoption of 2023 short track/road course splitter configurations, removal of engine panel strakes, a 3-inch spoiler, and simplified diffuser strakes.

While practice didn’t mirror race conditions, Hamlin noted subtle differences with the new package, particularly in traffic: “There’s a slight improvement, albeit minimal. If cars are evenly matched, passing remains challenging. However, it appears there’s a slight enhancement with the new package.”

When asked about assessing the package’s impact after Sunday’s race, Hamlin remained cautiously optimistic: “I can confidently say it won’t be worse than before. What we had previously was quite challenging. This is a modest improvement, perhaps a 10-percent change. Anything facilitating closer racing without the aerodynamic barriers we’ve encountered recently is a step in the right direction.”

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments