Race will be held on April 23 at South Boston Speedway in Virginia The Denny Hamlin Foundation Short Track Showdown is set for April 23, 2015 at South Boston Speedway, the Denny Hamlin Foundation announced on Wednesday. The Late Model charity race featuring some of the top NASCAR drivers competing against the best regional Late Model drivers will be back at South Boston Speedway and occur right before the NASCAR events at Richmond International Raceway . "Keeping the race at South Boston for 2015 was a no-brainer for me," said Hamlin in a release. "Not only did it bring back a little bit of NASCAR to the South Boston community, it also brought one of the most competitive fields we have seen at this event so far. The fans nearly sold out South Boston last year, and with the interest that we have already seen this year, I believe we will sell out South Boston, and provide fans with another thrilling event." The driver lineup for the event will announced closer to the event. Matt Bowling, a Whelen All-American Series driver won last year's event. NASCAR drivers that participated in last year's event included: Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , David Ragan , Jeb Burton and Timothy Peters . The Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown began in 2008 at Southside Speedway, a local short track near Hamlin's hometown of Chesterfield, Virginia. The event moved to Richmond in 2011 and then moved to South Boston in 2014. Proceeds from the race go to support the Denny Hamlin Foundation, which has donated $150,000 in grants while helping to fund the Denny Hamlin Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU and also supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation-accredited Therapeutics Development Center at VCU. Advance tickets for the Short Track Showdown go on sale starting February 11. For more information regarding the event, visit the southbostonspeedway.com and dennyhamlinfoundation.org .
Can JGR driver build off last season's run to the Championship 4? RELATED: Full schedule of driver previews Team: Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Rank in final 2014 standings: Third Wins: One ( Talladega Superspeedway in May) Year in photos: Recap Hamlin's 2014 season Strides: Denny Hamlin carried momentum from his victory in the 2013 season finale into Speedweeks, winning the Sprint Unlimited exhibition and one of the two Budweiser Duel qualifying races ahead of the Daytona 500 . He finished just short of winning the Great American Race with a runner-up finish, but applied the No. 11 team's knack for restrictor-plate tracks to post his first career victory at Talladega Superspeedway , clinching a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Once in the postseason, Hamlin was able to advance through all three rounds of the Chase's new format, landing one of four title-eligible spots in the Sprint Cup Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . He led 50 laps but wound up seventh in the finale -- third among the championship quartet -- when a gamble on pit strategy unraveled in the late stages. "We gave it our best run," Hamlin said. "I mean, we put together really our best race all year, that final race, and gave those guys a run when we really hadn't had the speed to race with them all year. We gave it an effort and just came up short. Really proud of what we were able to accomplish this year, even though it was somewhat of a down year for our team." Setbacks: A freak eye injury in March forced Hamlin to seek medical care at Auto Club Speedway for the second straight year on race day. In 2013, a tangle with Joey Logano left Hamlin with a broken back that sidelined him for four races and part of a fifth; in 2014, a sliver of metal in his left eye forced him out, just an hour before the green flag. A medical exemption by NASCAR officials allowed him to remain Chase-eligible as long as he met all other criteria. The new Chase qualification rules also benefited Hamlin later in the season, but the No. 11 team still felt heavy repercussions in the process. After a post-race technical infraction was found at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , NASCAR issued stiff penalties by stripping the team of 75 points, suspending crew chief Darian Grubb for six races and fining him $125,000. Injuries and penalties notwithstanding, Hamlin said after the season that he drove most of the year facing a performance deficit compared to his front-running rivals. With Joe Gibbs Racing expanding to a four-team operation with the addition of Carl Edwards to the 2015 driver roster, Hamlin said he hopes the benefits of additional information sharing can help get the organization over the hump. "You've just got to get better in all aspects, and I think we've always just been kind of that next-tier team, realistically," Hamlin said. "We can compete for race wins, week in and week out, but the championships have escaped us through mechanical stuff, which we've worked out, or this year it was just our cars weren't fast enough to compete with those guys. However, we gave ourselves a great chance that last race to really sneak a championship away from 'em, but overall we've just got to get better in more areas, and I think going to the fourth team will allow us to do that." Quoteworthy: "A lot of ups and downs -- it's been a tough year to start the year missing a race. We didn't have the tools to win a lot of races throughout the year, but we got better and we got better when it really counted. It wasn't for a lack of effort. Everyone gave 100 percent to give me the best car they could this weekend. It just wasn't enough to beat those guys." -- Hamlin , moments after finishing seventh in the championship race at Homestead-Miami. What's next: Hamlin's three-year run with Grubb drew to a close after a dramatic shake-up to JGR's crew chief lineup in the offseason. The new assignments for 2015 mean that Hamlin will pair with Dave Rogers, who served as crew chief for Kyle Busch on the No. 18 Toyota team in Sprint Cup since 2010. What won't change is the team's ultra-fast pit crew, often credited as one of the sport's best. Rogers and Hamlin have worked together with success in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series (seven wins together), and Rogers' tenure with Busch produced 13 Sprint Cup wins over a five-year stretch. Hamlin's 2014 finish was the third near-miss in his quest for a career-defining breakthrough championship at NASCAR's highest level. Though times are changing at JGR with its expansion and juggling of crew chiefs, Hamlin brings high hopes that the new combination with Rogers will bear fruit in 2015. "He's well-regarded within our sport amongst other crew chiefs and I know what he can do," Hamlin said. "He's been with the No. 11 FedEx team before. This is his second time around, but me and him have never worked together in the Cup Series. I have driven his cars during tests and been really fast and comfortable with them, so I'm very excited about what we can do." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Get the latest Denny Hamlin news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Denny Hamlin news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Denny Hamlin news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Driver of JGR's No. 11 is ready to move forward
2012 champion believes 'a new era' has come with current Chase format Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It's hard to determine if Brad Keselowski relishes his "anti-establishment" image in the world of NASCAR, but one thing is clear – the former Sprint Cup Series champion remains unapologetic for the way he races and the fallout that’s been known to follow. "You know you're doing something … right in this sport when you're racing the establishment and you make them upset," Keselowski, 30, said Wednesday during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "When you make them upset under the terms that I did – I made guys mad racing for the win, it wasn't racing for 20th. "If you get in a wreck and a fight racing for 20th, that doesn't make SportsCenter. You get in a wreck and a fight with a previous champion racing for a championship, going for a win then you're probably doing the right things." The Team Penske driver won a career-best six races last season and he and teammate Joey Logano were consistently fast throughout the course of the 36-race season. But it was incidents during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth at Charlotte, as well as a post-race brawl at Texas with four-time champion Jeff Gordon , that thrust Keselowski, and the sport, into the glare of the national spotlight. Kenseth and Gordon both questioned not only Keselowski's actions on the track, but his unrepentant attitude after such incidents. Hamlin simply described he 2012 champ as "out of control." Keselowski said such episodes either during the race or afterward didn't affect him personally. Taking a big picture view, such altercations showed that "there's a new era coming in this sport with this Chase," he said. "Honestly, it's already arrived. You're going to have to be very aggressive to win championships under this format. That was probably the lesson I learned – more so about the sport than anything else." That others were angry, he said, wasn't surprising, noting "you should be upset when you don't win." The Chase format – which consists of four rounds with wins in any round by a qualified driver guaranteeing advancement into the next round – increased the on-track intensity and aggressive nature of the competition 10-fold. Evidence was impossible to miss. "We certainly saw that with some moves I made, and I wasn't the only driver," he said. "We saw that out of Kevin (Harvick) at the end; and Ryan Newman at the end. And I'm sure there was more than that. I don't view that as a bad thing. I think that's great for the sport. I think our fans will respond to that in the long term; that's what we should be aiming for is what makes our fans happy." Racing defensively and protecting one's position went out the window with the new format, he said, noting that, "when that … mentality disappears from how the races play out, you see more aggressiveness. "I think you see more heated moments. You see a lot of different things that I think are, in general, good for the sport." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Haunting memories of 2010 are put aside for now RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Unless and until Denny Hamlin wins his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, the legacy of Phoenix International Raceway and the 2010 season will haunt one of NASCAR's most successful drivers. But failure to seize opportunity had to be the furthest thing from Hamlin's mind when dusk turned to darkness in the desert on Saturday. His eyes were fixed on his not-quite-2-year-old daughter Taylor as the toddler wandered toward the media center stage. At the microphone, Daddy was discussing winning his third pole of the season and leading all drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with two races to go. It was a chance for Hamlin to exhale, embrace the moment and think about all the future might hold. Capturing his 20th career pole had come as a pleasant surprise. His car had been far from terrific in practice. He attributed his fast lap, in part, to knowing the track and hitting his marks precisely. Oh, yes, he's been here before, literally and figuratively. But he tries not to think about 2010 and what might have been. Hamlin not only came to Arizona leading the Chase standings by 33 points, but he also led 190 laps at Phoenix that November Sunday and would have likely cruised to victory if not for an ill-fated fuel strategy that forced him to pit with 14 laps to go. That relegated him to a 12th-place finish and reduced his lead to 15 points over reigning champion Jimmie Johnson , who took command from the outset when the chips were on the table the following week at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "You know, I don't think about it actually that often unless we're watching a highlight film or something like that," said Hamlin , who earlier this week admitted to the hangover effect when he got to Homestead. "In 2010, I feel like at Homestead I was still kind of bummed about what happened at Phoenix. I think every now and then about what we could have done differently. But you can't really second-guess." Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) could go a long way toward exorcising those demons, and Hamlin , once again, knows that he controls his own destiny, even though his path to the championship is not nearly as clear-cut. Although he is tied with Joey Logano for the lead in points, six other drivers are still very much in contention for the crown. Only the top four will advance to next week's Championship Weekend with those title hopes still intact. "We were racing less guys, for sure," says Hamlin , recalling the final races of the 2010 season, including his victory at Texas Motor Speedway , his career-high eighth win of the season that propelled him to the edge of glory. "There was a point in the year where myself, Jimmie and Kevin (Harvick) had kind of broken ourselves away from the pack. Now, there are obviously more players in the game." And, with just one victory under his belt in 2014 (Talladega), Hamlin is hardly brimming with the supreme confidence bred by repeated trips to Victory Lane four years ago. "I don't feel like our performance is (at) as high of a level as it was then," Hamlin said. "So, that's more of an obstacle." That's why Saturday's pole-winning performance was so important from a mental standpoint in addition to gaining the physical advantages of leading the field and pit stall selection. "It definitely came out of the blue from my perspective," Hamlin said. "I didn't think we had a pole-winning car. I thought (starting in) the top eight would have been a huge bonus. But this showed that we have speed in the car. We just have to figure out how to get it optimized for 312 laps around this race track on Sunday." In part, Hamlin thanks the new Chase format for keeping his team in contention. "The best thing that happened (to this sport) in a long time," he said. "Even though some of the better teams throughout the entire year will probably get eliminated this weekend, other teams will be moving on. You still have to go through the due process of making it all the way to the end. The best record in any other sport does not guarantee you to be in the championship matchup." It's not as though Hamlin has not experienced success at Phoenix. He won at PIR in March 2012, one of five wins that season and 14 top-five finishes. But the rewards have been slim the last two seasons, particularly last year when he was sidelined early by a fractured vertebra. This season has not been without incident. In fact, having missed the fifth points race of the season at Auto Club Speedway due to a sliver of metal in his eye, Hamlin has the chance to become the first driver since Richard Petty in 1971 to win a Cup title without competing in every race. But first things, first. With the eight Cup contenders separated by just 18 points, Hamlin must survive Sunday at Phoenix before he can even begin thinking about a trophy run at Homestead. A finish of 11th or better will assure him a spot in the final four, but Hamlin isn't thinking that way. "I think the competition level is just too close and tight to be able to think that you're going to be able to coast to an 11th place," he said. "Nowadays, the difference between 11th and third and 20th is not that much. You've got to go all out every single lap and fight for every position on restarts. There is no backing into this thing and coasting our way to Homestead. "Our team has done a good job of grinding our way through this. We haven't beaten ourselves with bad finishes. Now, we have an opportunity." That opportunity begins with a second chance at Phoenix -- a chance for Hamlin to permanently leave those demons in the rearview mirror. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
There appears to be room for improvement between Toyota teams CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Clint Bowyer disagreed with Kyle Busch 's style of delivery, but when Busch said the Toyota teams of Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing were "idiots" for not working as closely together as other alliances, Bowyer couldn't deny the importance of that type of collaboration in today's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. The success of teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing working together has provided a strong example to follow, with drivers from each of those four-car super teams claiming the past two championships and three of the past four. And like it or not, that could be putting more pressure on others to follow suit. "I wish we could go back to no simulation, no testing, show up with a group of guys and get the most out of a weekend," Bowyer said Tuesday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "Unfortunately, those days are over. ... The success, I'm afraid from here on out, is going to be in numbers." Those numbers grew when Joe Gibbs Racing expanded to four Cup cars for the 2015 season, adding veteran driver Carl Edwards to a team of Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth . Between JGR's four Toyotas and Michael Waltrip Racing 's two full-time cars, the teams appear to be better positioned to work together. But that's not what's happening, according to Busch. "I'm very vocal about it because I feel like we're idiots by not continuing to work in the right direction in order to put our companies together and do the right things for Toyota and for all of us collectively," Busch said Monday. "Nothing has happened where Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing are going to collectively work together as in-depthly as Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are." Bowyer admitted HMS and SHR are setting the benchmark for team alliances, because, as he says, you're racing against eight cars and their collective information when you take on those teams on a weekly basis. So what is it that MWR and JGR can do better? "No doubt, more data points would be potentially more helpful," MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said. "That's something that if we can work with our fellow Toyota teams to collaborate in that regard, we'd certainly like to do that. It's really a three-legged stool between MWR, JGR and Toyota TRD as they call themselves. That's kind of how we're organized amongst ourselves as we look at all of those three points and what can you do to raise the level of those three together." Michael Waltrip agreed with Kauffman that more could be done between the two teams. "Could we collaborate on more? Yes, and I think that's ultimately the goal," Waltrip said. "I think everyone sees the success that organizations have by working together." But Waltrip pointed out that the super-team approach isn't the only way to reach success in Sprint Cup . "Well, then you look at Roger's (Penske) two cars and they do pretty good and there's only two of them," Waltrip said. "We feel like that there's going to be some advantages by collaborating with Gibbs more and we continue to work toward that." Of course Bowyer, in his own tongue-in-cheek way, had a suggestion for better cooperation between the teams. "If we could get Kyle to work better with us, I think it would be beneficial for sure," Bowyer said with a laugh. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup third-place finisher, Denny Hamlin , gives a speech at the Sprint Cup Series Awards in Las Vegas.