Denny Hamlin ready for return to Daytona next week as NASCAR playoffs loom

Driver Denny Hamlin, right, talks to Rick Hendrick before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Sunday, May 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond) (Nell Redmond, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NASCAR is closing in on a return to Daytona.

That can only mean one thing. The playoffs are getting close.

The Coke Zero Sugar 400 is just around the corner on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m., and that means so is NASCAR’s postseason.

Denny Hamlin can’t wait to get back.

“Well, I mean Daytona is special for a lot of reasons, right? The Daytona 500 is always special, always been special. So, there’s always more excitement, more viewers and everything for that particular race so that speaks for itself,” Hamlin said on Thursday. “But now to have it have such a significant role in the regular season finale really kind of elevates Daytona’s second race to one of the big ones.”

Daytona is special to Hamlin.

He’s won the 500 there three times, including back-to-back (2019-20). But winning is something that he hasn’t been able to do this year. Hamlin is second in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings entering Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Hamlin (931 points) trails only Kyle Larson (953) in points. He’s been as consistent as anyone outside of Larson, finishing in the top 10 16 times and in the top five 12 times.

And it’s that consistency that makes Hamlin confident of his team’s chances as the postseason looms.

“It’s so week to week, we break this up into a three-week season that it’s honestly hard to kind of think you’re guaranteed beyond anything. All I know is our performance is good enough and so that’s something that we have to an advantage over other teams,” Hamlin said.

“There’s several other teams that will run good one week and then they’ll run 15th the next week. We don’t do that. We always run within the top five, as long as we don’t have something out of our control that takes us out.”

The closing stretch is an excellent one for fans. Daytona wraps things up next week before the playoffs begin.

The first round includes races at Darlington, Richmond and Bristol. The second round features runs at Las Vegas, Talladega and Charlotte. The Round of 8 includes races at Texas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Martinsville.

The Championship 4 is at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.