Ham­lin eyes 1st Dover win

Sits on the pole look­ing for elu­sive vic­tory

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SCOREBOARD - By Dan Gelston

DOVER, Del. — Denny Ham­lin is 0-for-Dover in a stel­lar ca­reer for Joe Gibbs Rac­ing that in­cludes two Day­tona 500 vic­to­ries.

He’s also miss­ing a Cup cham­pi­onship, con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence on a re­sume that boasts 35 wins over 499 ca­reer starts. Ham­lin took a nice first step to­ward eras­ing his win­less drought at Dover In­ter­na­tional Speed­way when he turned a lap of 166.984 mph to start the sec­ond round of the play­offs on the pole.

That cham­pi­onship that sits just seven races away, well, Ham­lin be­lieves it’s his for the tak­ing.

“Even though I’ve had past stum­bles here, and it hasn’t tech­ni­cally been my best race track, we know we are fully ca­pa­ble of win­ning at any race track,” Ham­lin said. “It doesn’t mat­ter what the past his­tory is.”

Ham­lin has never won on the mile con­crete track in 27 races dat­ing to 2006. He has only four top-five fin­ishes, did not fin­ish four times and his av­er­age fin­ish is just 17.5. He fin­ished 21st in the No. 11 Toy­ota in the May race at Dover.

But to win a cham­pi­onship, a driver must of­ten ex­cel in crunch time on a track that gives him fits. With four wins this sea­son, Ham­lin is en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance with new crew chief Chris Gabehart. Ham­lin said the chem­istry gives him con­fi­dence to re­main in cham­pi­onship con­tention.

“I think a lot of it comes from the crew chief,” Ham­lin said. “I think that he’s done a phe­nom­e­nal job when you go back to races for the sec­ond time, ad­just­ing based off the in­for­ma­tion that I gave him.”

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