LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin loves coming to New Hampshire. So, when NASCAR notified the Sprint Cup Series points leader that he’d be visiting the Granite State as part of the “Chase Across America,” Hamlin was more than happy to oblige.
Hamlin visited a National Guard Aviation facility, as well as fans, media and voters on Tuesday in Concord, N.H., 12 days before he leads a field of 12 championship-thirsty drivers into New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Sept. 23 SYLVANIA 300, the second race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
“This is without a doubt one of my favorite stops in the series,” said Hamlin, who will begin the Chase on Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway atop the standings. “We’ve had a very good season so far, but our goal is that championship, and New Hampshire is a crucial stop for us in making that happen.
“We expect to run well at most of these final 10 tracks, but we expect to win at New Hampshire.”
Hamlin began his day by visiting the 169th National Guard Med-Evac Aviation Unit, which will be deploying to Afghanistan six days after the SYLVANIA 300. Hamlin was given a tour of and even sat in the pilot seat of a Black Hawk helicopter. Hamlin returned the favor by giving the unit a tour of his No. 11 FedEx Toyota.
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of NHMS, plans on inviting the 169th unit to the race on Sept. 23 to cheer on Hamlin and, of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is sponsored by the National Guard.
“We’re looking forward to going out to the track and watching you,” said Andy Foote, Chief Warrant Officer for the 169th. “We’ve got a lot of NASCAR fans in this group and I think you’ve made a few more today. We wish you the best of luck when you come back here.”
“This is the first time I’ve had the chance to meet with a military unit outside of the track,” said Hamlin. “You guys are the true heroes and I know I can speak for a lot of people when I say that I wish you a safe and speedy return home.”
After departing the aviation facility, Hamlin spent time eating lunch and visiting with fans and media at The Red Blazer. He held a Q & A with fans, who were eager to get Hamlin’s thoughts on the upcoming Chase.
“Well I’m still burning a bit from not winning the race here back in July,” said Hamlin, who had the dominant car, but communication issues on pit road cost him the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at NHMS on July 15. “I know we’ve got a great chance at this thing and we’re going to do all we can to make sure we come out on top after these next 10 races – but it’s all about taking it one race at a time.”
The final stop of the afternoon was the polling station at Broken Ground School. Hamlin spent time visiting with voters and there were even some fans on hand holding up “Hamlin in 2012” signs.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Hamlin. “I hope it comes true.”
It just might, too. Hamlin has been one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR over the past month with two wins in the last three weeks and a Cup-leading four victories this season. He has 13 top-10s, 11 of those top-fives.
“It’s hard to believe that he’s been around for seven years already, but Denny has been consistent and strong since he burst onto the season as a full-time driver in 2006,” said Gappens. “I think this is as deep a field as we’ve ever seen in the Chase, but Denny has to be the favorite right now.”
To see Denny Hamlin and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase field at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, purchase your tickets to the SYLVANIA 300 NASCAR weekend by stopping by our Ticket Office, visiting the speedway website at www.nhms.com or calling our Ticket Hotline at (603) 783-4931.