No. 3 Denny Hamlin
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Denny Hamlin turns laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
While he led 50 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, Denny Hamlin’s seventh place finish was not enough to secure the Joe Gibbs Racing driver his first series title.
Denny Hamlin’s 2014 featured the driver with a fast start to 2014, and a May win at Talladega enabling a return to the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Hamlin won the Sprint Unlimited and second Budweiser Duel, topping off Speedweeks with a second-place finish in the Daytona 500.
Hamlin missed the fifth race of the season at Auto Club Speedway. Entering the race seventh in points, an unexpected medical emergency sidelined Hamlin.
“[Hamlin] has a sinus infection and it’s affecting his vision, so he won’t be able to start the race,” JGR president J.D. Gibbs said before the race in March. “We hate it for him. He has been so good for us, JGR, over the years. We’re just praying that he has a quick recovery.
Hamlin eventually won at Talladega Superspeedway, his first points-paying win at a restrictor-plate racetrack.
Despite a 75-point penalty following the Indianapolis race in July, Hamlin maintained a top-30 points position by Richmond, enabling the Chesterfield, Virginia native to make his eighth career Chase appearance.
Hamlin finished inside the top-ten seven times over the course of the Chase, leading laps in all of the final six events of the season. Advancing to the Championship Round with three top-ten finishes in the Eliminator Round, Hamlin would enter Homestead-Miami with a shot at the title for the first time since 2010.
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Hamlin ran inside the top-ten during the Homestead-Miami race, leading five times for a total of 50 laps. Yet, a pass for the lead from eventual champion Kevin Harvick with seven laps-to-go placed Hamlin third on the final restart.
With Hamlin unable to stay in toe with Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick, Hamlin faded on the restart, ultimately finishing third among the championship contenders.
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Denny Hamlin celebrates his win in the second Budweiser Duel in February.
“Obviously we had a championship-type car, championship-type effort, but those last breaks just didn't go our way,” Hamlin said. I thought once our car really came into its own as soon as it went dark, and I thought we had the best car, and we just struggled with restart speed. Kind of the theme of the year, just struggling with -- we don't have the all-out speed that those guys have, and with that, it put me in some tough spots on restarts.”
Hamlin’s third place in points and 18 top-ten finishes were his highest ranking and top-ten finishes since 2010.