By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Though Denny Hamlin has seen dozens of trophies fill his North Carolina home — including three Daytona 500s — the next one could have a high place on the mantel.
In scoring a dramatic victory at Kansas Speedway back in May, Hamlin notched win No. 49 in his 18-year Cup Series career. And entering his winningest racetrack of Pocono Raceway Sunday, the milestone 50th victory is on the mind of Hamlin, who’s won at the Pennsylvania track six times.
“It’s something I think about every week,” Hamlin said of No. 50. “It’s something I’m pretty optimistic [knowing] every seven days I have a shot.”
The 50th win could have already been in the books. A record-breaking seventh Pocono win was in his hands one year ago until a postrace DNQ dropped him from the top spot. Now 12 months later, Hamlin feels he’s owed nothing from the Tricky Triangle.
“It’s unprecedented what happened last year,” he said. “The track doesn’t owe me anything, I feel I’ve been blessed to get the wins I’ve had here. Certainly, no chip on my shoulder.”
With one win and five top fives in 2023, the season has been one of peaks and valleys for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, who has scored 12 finishes outside the top 10 through 20 races.
The lack of a consistent race-winning pace has eased the frustration of having the elusive 50th victory somewhere on the horizon.
“I don’t know how many really, truly, legit shots we’ve had where we had a grasp on the race, we were the fastest car and didn’t win,” he said. “Certainly, there are little things here and there that you can do better. Since Kansas, I really don’t feel we’ve had the one race that we’ve just been good enough to win and didn’t.
“It hasn’t gotten frustrating just yet. I just want to execute a good weekend and give my team a shot to do it again.”