Ready and recovered: Hamlin eyeing big rebound in 2014
The driver of the No. 11 Toyota endured a tumultuous 2013 that included a back injury that effectively ended his bid for a title. It's a new year, though, and the Virginia native is completely healthy again.
Denny Hamlin (left) talks with crew chief Darian Grubb last June at Sonoma Raceway.
Sean Gardner / Getty Images
By Jeff Hammond
Obviously, 2013 as a whole on the racing side of things was horrendous for Denny Hamlin. He was injured early in the season and even after coming back later in the year, he simply wasn't competitive. To his credit, things really started coming back together for the No. 11 team and they pulled out a win at our last race of the season at Homestead. So, the question becomes, "How does this set the tone for Denny and the No. 11 bunch for 2014?"
It's clear that Denny has been through the NASCAR ringer. He had a championship within his grasp a few years ago only to let it slip away in the final races of the year. Following that season, Denny struggled mightily. Starting off so well in 2013 only to have his season interrupted with the back injury really pushed Denny to the extreme.
We all know the strength of Joe Gibbs Racing. We also know that an athlete who is hurt simply can't compete at the highest level like his competitors or even his teammates. When Denny is healthy, he can hold his own against the best. He is one of the rare types of drivers that are a threat to win on any type of racetrack you put him on.
I believe 2014 is all up to Denny. He says he is healthy, plus he says he has the right attitude. Now, it will be the time to parley that into being the competitor we've seen in the past. He wants to be one of the guys the media talks about as a legitimate threat for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
As good as Joe Gibbs Racing was in 2013 with one of their drivers injured, you simply have to know and believe they are going to be even stronger now that Denny is back to 100 percent.