Denny Hamlin hoping to ‘finish this thing off’ at Phoenix

Denny Hamlin’s NASCAR career has been extensive and successful but it continues to lack one significant achievement – a Cup Series championship.

Hamlin has had several opportunities over the years, he even finished third in the series standings in his rookie year back in 2006.

He’ll get one more on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, when he competes against Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott for the 2020 season title.

Hamlin and Kevin Harvick dominated the 2020 season with 16 wins (seven for Harvick) between them yet when it came to the semifinal round of the playoffs, Harvick got eliminated and Hamlin ended up as the final driver to qualify for Championship 4.

With the current elimination-style playoff format and winner-takes-all finale, championships are not only harder to come by, but having the opportunity to compete for them is even harder to achieve.

“We’ve achieved our goal for the year. Our goal was to get to the final four,” Hamlin, 39, said. “After that, it’s all about circumstances. You have to have a fast car and you have to have things fall your way if you want to be a champion.

“It’s a little different than it used to be. Now it just comes down to one race. We’ve achieved our goal. Two years in a row now making the final four – hopefully, we can finish this thing off.”

This season is Hamlin’s third time competing in the Championship 4 and his season performance as well as his track record at Phoenix should give he and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team plenty of confidence.

Hamlin won this race one year ago and in his career he has two wins at the track, and 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 30 starts.

“We obviously had a great Phoenix last year (but) things were a lot different. You had a different aerodynamic package,” Hamlin said. “Certainly I feel like when I go there I’m going to roll off and hopefully have a race winner.

“Obviously, we’re going to be ready and we’re going to be prepared and hopefully we’ll go out there and show what we’ve got.”

Should Hamlin again come up short in quest for his first series title, it shouldn’t detract from his career accomplishments – 44 career wins, three Daytona 500 victories, an All-Star Race victory and next year he’s set to become a part-owner of a Cup Series team along with NBA icon Michael Jordan.

Asked to assess his chances at winning Sunday, Hamlin said, “I think we can win any given week for sure. The short tracks haven’t been great for us all year, but you just never know.

“Last year, we went there and nearly lapped the field, so who knows how it’s going to turn out. One race, winner take all, you never know.”

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