Denny Hamlin has kicked his season in gear at absolutely the right time.
He won at Bristol. He won at Atlanta. He rolls into Richmond Saturday with a lock on a top spot in the Chase seedings, and with a record at RIR that includes a pair of victories and nine top 10s.
Life is good.
"This has been something in the works for a very long time, and obviously I have a lot wins in my career because of two very important guys – one is Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and the other is Mike Ford (former crew chief),” Hamlin said. “Mike put together 80 percent of a championship-winning team, and Darian has just filled that gap and put the rest of the pieces of the puzzle together. The foundation has been laid. He's (Grubb) just putting the cap on it, and Darian is getting the most out of our guys.
“I've never seen our crew just so happy to be at the race track every single week. Even in 2010 (when he almost won the title), I didn't see that from our guys. That's when you get the most out of them, and for me I'm just happy to be at the race track every single week knowing I can win a race.
“It doesn't matter the race track anymore. It's just I know we can win. Darian has just taken this program to that next level, and obviously anyone can go on a 10-race run. He did it last year (with champion Tony Stewart), and hopefully he's got some of the magic saved up for us here in the next few weeks."
Richmond is Hamlin’s “home” track, a good spot for a win as another momentum-builder for the Chase.
“I look at Richmond as a race we're going to go win,” Hamlin said. “That's my track. It's my best track, arguably, and I just think we have a lot of momentum now, and, for what it's worth, I will try to take advantage of it.”
Hamlin won at Richmond in 2009 and 2010, and JGR cars have won nine times there.
Practice sessions for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 are scheduled at noon and 2:45 p.m. (ET) Friday. The race is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.