Denny Hamlin’s measured and motivated run to a career first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title remains on course after a dramatic but satisfying third-place finish on the unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway high banks Monday. It was his third top five in five Playoff races this season and was especially impressive considering Hamlin started last in the Talladega field after an engine problem in qualifying.
It brings Hamlin’s top-five total this season to 16 – a career-high mark. He has 20 top-10 finishes meaning 80 percent of the time he’s in the top 10, it’s a top-five performance.
His place atop the series points standings – eight points up on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. – is his best standing of the season and undoubtedly has fed the confidence of this popular driver, who is an annual championship favorite. Seven times in his 14-year full time Cup career, Hamlin has finished sixth or better in the title chase. He was a career best runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in 2010 and twice has finished third in the championship, including a headline-making 2006 rookie campaign.
The driver of the No. 11 JGR Toyota is a former Kansas Speedway winner, earning the trophy in Spring, 2012. Since then he’s been especially good in the Fall Playoff races – finishing runner-up in 2015 and fifth in 2017. The track has been hit-or-miss statistic-wise for Hamlin. He has two top 10s – both fifth-place finishes – in the last seven races. He was 16th this May and 14th in this race last October.