The 2016 NASCAR season will be here soon, and Athlon Sports is helping you prep for the season with a scouting report and fantasy preview for each of the top 16 drivers. The Athlon Sports 2016 Racing Preview, available on newsstands now, includes previews and stats for every driver and every track.
Denny Hamiln checks in at No. 9 in our countdown. Here’s what his season could look like on the track and on your fantasy team:
“Denny’s an emotional guy,” says an industry insider. “That helps when he’s running well. But what if he feels his job is threatened as the 2016 season progresses? Any hint Erik Jones is taking his spot could turn into a major distraction quickly for a driver who tends to lose confidence at a moment’s notice.”
“There were times early last year when you actually wondered for a moment if time was running out on Denny at Joe Gibbs Racing,” says another insider. “And trust me, there are times when he gets on some nerves over there. But he’s also very talented and proved it again by making the Chase, then winning the first race in it. This Chase elimination format actually might suit Hamlin more than most going forward, for it allows him to be a bit inconsistent in the Chase and still advance — like he did when he got to the final four at Homestead in 2014. Don’t be surprised if it happens again, even if there are a few more of the inevitable bumps in the road along the way.”
Slow Down! Only rookie Jeb Burton incurred more speeding penalties on pit road than Hamlin’s seven last season. Once Hamlin earns a Chase spot, a push back to 25th after a penalty call gives him less incentive in the “regular season” to work his way toward the front.
Hometown Zero? Hamlin was once known for dominating the proceedings at the two Virginia tracks on the NASCAR circuit: Richmond and Martinsville. But the native of the Old Dominion has won just once on those tracks in the last five years, posting a more pedestrian average finish of 12.2 during that stretch.
One-Hit Wonder: Some of Hamlin’s best finishes last year came at ovals the Cup Series visits only once. He won Chicagoland, was third at Darlington and Kentucky, and ran fifth at both Las Vegas and Indianapolis. Add in a pole at Homestead, and it’s a weird quirk to remember for 2016.