Just when it seems like Denny Hamlin’s season can’t get any worse, it does. With five races in the books, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and perennial championship contender is 26th in the Cup Series standings and has three DNFs and no top-10s. To make matters worse, some of Hamlin’s troubles have been self-inflicted, with one example coming this past weekend at Atlanta where his No. 11 Toyota appeared to have the speed to contend for the win but the driver made a mistake by running into Kyle Larson and causing an accident that ruined the day for both drivers.
Up next for Hamlin is a track in Circuit of The Americas where he performed OK but not great a season ago when he finished 14th. But maybe, just maybe, this will be the weekend when everything finally comes together for Hamlin, who entered the season on the shortlist of favorites to win the championship after having been part of the Championship 4 in each of the past three seasons. “Overall, it’s just frustrating,” Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 champion, said of his season to date. “We are running well, but we are just finishing horrible. I’m just making some bad decisions.”
If there’s anything Hamlin can perhaps take solace in, it’s that he’s not the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver or Toyota driver who is less than pleased about how this season is going. With a handful of races down, no Toyota driver has been to Victory Lane, as it appears that the manufacturer doesn’t have as good of a handle on the new Next Generation Cup Series car as rival manufacturers Chevrolet and Ford.