The trip to Pocono Raceway on July 24 will provide several winless Cup Series drivers with an opportunity to fight for a playoff spot. Denny Hamlin will pursue his third win of the 2022 season, one that would break a historic tie with a NASCAR Hall of Famer.
Hamlin enters the Pocono weekend with six wins at the track. He swept the 2006 season before returning to Victory Lane in 2009, 2010, 2019, and 2020. This is the most among active drivers, and it puts him in a tie with Jeff Gordon (1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2011, 2012) for the most all-time.
If Hamlin can win the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 on July 24, he will take the top spot in the record books. He will then add even more playoff points to his total.
Hamlin will enter the weekend with the second-best odds among Cup Series drivers. He sits at 8-1 while Chase Elliott holds the top spot at 7-1. His previous wins are a major reason for these odds, as are Hamlin’s 21 top-10 finishes and 14 top-fives in 32 career starts. This run of success includes six straight top-10s from 2018 to 2021.
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Hamlin Joins Another Unique List at Pocono Raceway
While Hamlin sits atop the all-time list of Pocono wins with Gordon, he is also part of another unique list. He is one of four drivers to secure his first career Cup Series win at the Pennsylvania track.
Hamlin first reached Victory Lane during the 2006 season. He captured the Pocono 500, his first start at the track, on June 11 after leading 83 of the scheduled 200 laps. Hamlin then returned to Victory Lane one month later in the Pennsylvania 500.
The list of first-time winners includes one former driver and two currently battling for a spot in the playoffs. Jeremy Mayfield won his first career Cup Series race on June 21, 1998, while Chris Buescher won his first on August 1, 2016. Ryan Blaney rounds out the list with his win on June 11, 2017.
Leading Laps Will Help Hamlin Make Major Moves
Hamlin, who has won at both Charlotte Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway in 2022, has not spent as much time at the front of the pack. He has only led 290 total laps through 20 races, headlined by 114 at Nashville Superspeedway. This is his fewest since the 2005 season when he led 25 laps in seven starts.
Leading more laps at Pocono Raceway will be important for multiple reasons. Most importantly, it will put Hamlin in a better position to fight for stage wins and the checkered flag. It will also help Hamlin overtake the 1982 Cup Series Rookie of the Year on a historic list.
Hamlin is currently third on the all-time list for laps led at Pocono Raceway with 797 in 32 starts. He is 11 laps behind Geoff Bodine, who led 809 in 42 starts. Gordon actually has the top spot with 1,040 laps led in 47 career starts while Hamlin has led the highest percentage (15%) of his completed laps.
The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry has shown speed at times during the 2022 Cup Series season. His two Busch Light Pole wins (Charlotte and Nashville) serve as evidence. Now he will have an opportunity to do so once again at a track where he has had considerable success.