Denny Hamlin taking more ‘selfish’ approach to Daytona 500

Denny Hamlin taking more 'selfish' approach to Daytona 500

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The 43-year-old veteran may not have won a championship, but he’s amassed 51 wins in his career, including three Daytona 500 victories.

Only five drivers in NASCAR history have won as many 500s or more than Hamlin. Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Allison all won three, Cale Yarborough won four and Richard Petty owns seven victories.

All three of Hamlin’s wins have come since 2016 and he has been close numerous other times.

This season, Hamlin believes he may need to take a slightly different approach in trying to win Sunday’s 500, in part to look out for his own self-interest.

Sticking with manufacturer allies

In recent years, there has been a greater focus on cooperation among teams from the same manufacturer in how race strategy plays out.

“I was just kind of torn on what exactly working together is beneficial, and this, that and another. I think it’s in my best interest in getting back to basics, and that’s doing what I feel is best to win the race for myself,” Hamlin said.

“While having teammates is great and are certainly assets to use in certain situations to win races, I think sometimes it’s those who are the most selfish, that make moves for themselves, they are those who win the race.”

Hamlin pointed to last year’s winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as a prime example.

While Stenhouse drives a Chevrolet, his JTG Daugherty team competes as a single-car operation and in essence has no “teammates.”

Stenhouse grabbed the lead for the first time in the first overtime of last year’s race with the help of a shove from fellow Chevy driver Kyle Larson. In the second overtime, however, Stenhouse got a push from Toyota driver Christopher Bell to get past Joey Logano and earn the win.

“We’ve certainly had our fair share of moments when we’ve had to pick between a move a teammate made versus a move someone else made, and I deemed the other person made the right move,” Hamlin said.

“Those lead to what I argue is a more successful result for the No. 11 car. Still, you want to help your teammates as much as you can as you’ll need those allies throughout the race and certainly during it.

“But I feel, I need to personally go back to the style I had a few years ago and we’ll see what the results say.”

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, FedEx Toyota Camry

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, FedEx Toyota Camry

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

Asked if he felt his more selfish approach would receive any blowback from Toyota, Hamlin did not think so.

“If we happen to be behind someone that doesn’t have the history or success (in superspeedway racing), yet my result is dictated by the person that I have to push, I don’t necessarily think that’s a great strategy.,” Hamlin said.

“So, I think that while there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for us to all work together – pitting, pushing each other by a competitor manufacturer or team – in the end you have to be selfish to win these races and certainly we realize that through results more than anything else.

“I think all of us will probably be on the same page as far as that’s concerned to do what we have to do to get a win. And, if we win, then Toyota wins and Joe Gibbs Racing wins.”

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