Things just keep waxing worse and worse for Denny Hamlin. Now 12 races into and exactly one third of the way through the 2022 Cup Series season, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and earner of three consecutive Championship 4 appearances has only one top-10 finish — a win at Richmond, the three-quarter mile track just outside his hometown of Chesterfield, Virginia. Aside from that win in early April, it’s been nothing but frustration and disappointment for the series veteran as he seeks to establish the level of consistency that’s been a hallmark of his Cup career.
Just to add a little more perspective, consider: At this time last season — a dozen races in — Hamlin boasted nine top-five finishes. So 2022 has featured quite a dip in performance for a guy who’s widely considered the best active Cup Series driver without a championship. For whatever reason, Hamlin just can’t seem to find his mojo this year. While part of the issue has simply been rotten racing luck, Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has more often lacked the speed to run at the front and contend for the win. And the result has been one of the toughest seasons of his lengthy Cup career.
The good news for Hamlin? He’s historically strong at Kansas, where he’s a three-time Cup race winner and captured his most recent victory in the spring of 2020. So hope springs eternal for Hamlin heading into the weekend. But it feels like time is running out on his opportunity to finally get this season pointed in the right direction.