2011 Stats: Points Finish 9th, 1 Win, 5 Top Fives, 14 Top Tens, Average Running Position 14.5, Average Finish 16.0, Laps Led 450, Driver Rating 88.1
Strengths- My Denny Hamlin Fantasy NASCAR saying is “if it’s short or flat pick Hamlin”.
In the 2011 Chase Denny Hamlin and the 11 team focused on R&D projects so look for this team to be ahead of the curve this season. Last season Denny Hamlin said that JGR fell behind the competition in this department. I think they’ll be back right where they need to be competition wise at the start of the season.
Weaknesses- 2011 was without a doubt a “down season” for the 11 team. For that reason it’s best not to focus on how 2011 played out for him but rather focus on historical trends.
Historically the Chase portion of the schedule hasn’t always been the best for Hamlin. With the exception of 2010 he typically has three or four bad races in this segment of the season.
Plate tracks also haven’t always been the best places to use Hamlin at.
Engine reliability has been an issue for a while now but with a new engine supplier in 2012 this problem should be fixed.
Intermediate Track Grade- A-, Last season Denny Hamlin accumulated the 13th most points on this track type. When you throw out a couple of engine failures he’s a 5th through 10th place driver on this track type. He’s capable of getting the job done at any of these venues but I would be cautiously wary of picking him at Dover.
Flat Track Grade- A, Hamlin is a flat track master. I like him especially on the shorter flats (9th most points accumulated in 2011). If you need a default pick for Pocono there’s none better than Hamlin. His record is spotty at Indy but he’s due for a good finish. 2011 was an off year for Hamlin at these venues but he’ll be back in full force in 2012.
Restrictor Plate Track Grade- B, Denny Hamlin is one of the best tandem drafters in the series. Tandem drafting might be going away to a degree but it will still have its place at the end of these races.
At Talladega Denny Hamlin has finished in the top ten in three of the last four races. Not to many drivers have that level of consistency even over that short of a stretch. It is notable though that in seven of his twelve races at Talladega he’s finished 20th or worse.
Daytona is a track where I will caution you about picking Hamlin. In twelve races at NASCAR’s most famous track he only has one top ten finish. He hasn’t even finished in the top twenty in half his races (Finished in the top twenty in 42% of his races). He’s led laps in eight of the last nine races so he knows how to get to the front.
Short Track Grade- A, Right now Kyle Busch is #1 on this track type and Denny Hamlin is a close second. I like him at every short track on the schedule. He’s a four-time winner at Martinsville, a two-time winner at Richmond and at Bristol he’s very underrated (stats don’t do him justice there, should have won the first race in the COT).
What makes Denny Hamlin so good on this track type is his smooth driving style. He doesn’t abuse his equipment and he’s always running near the front. Denny doesn’t make other drivers mad so he’s as safe a pick as they come.
Road Course Track Grade- B+, Road Courses have been tough on Denny Hamlin the last two years but he’s very strong on this track type. If you throw away his last two years on these tracks his average finish would be 10.5 with just one finish lower than 12th. Don’t sleep on Denny Hamlin at these tracks. He’s extremely capable on the serpentine tracks.
How to use Denny Hamlin from a Fantasy NASCAR Perspective in 2012? Without question his strengths to a fantasy racers are the short tracks and flat tracks. He’s also valuable at intermediate tracks and road courses. Look for good things out of Hamlin in 2012.