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2013 season in review: Denny Hamlin

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To say 2013 was a tough season for Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin would be an understatement: he finished a career-worst 23rd in points thanks to missing four races early in the Sprint Cup Series season, winning just one race – the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway – and earning just eight top 10 finishes.

If there was a bright side to Hamlin’s season in the No. 11 Toyota Camry, it was that he was fast: he earned a career-high five poles: the first race at Auto Club Speedway, two straight at Charlotte and Dover in the early summer, the August race at Bristol and the Chase race at Martinsville. He qualified in the top 10 at 20 of the 32 races he ran this season.

After qualifying 35th at Daytona to open the season, he rebounded with a 14th-place finish in the 500, followed by a third-place finish at Phoenix. He finished 15th at Las Vegas before his season went downhill: following a 23rd-place finish at Bristol, he was injured in a wreck at Auto Club Speedway in March, relegating Hamlin to a 25th-place finish and four races on the sidelines. Hamlin suffered a L1 Compression Fracture following the last-lap accident and missed the next four races on the schedule.

Hamlin returned to the track at Talladega with a 34th-place finish, but bounced back with a runner-up finish at Darlington and a fourth-place finish at Charlotte. The next stretch of 18 races saw Hamlin earn one top 10 finish (an eighth-place finish at Pocono); he didn’t return to the top 10 until the October race at Charlotte, where he finished ninth.

In the season’s final five races, Hamlin suffered an engine issue at Talladega (38th-place finish), raced to two seventh-place finishes (Martinsville and Texas), and finished a disappointing 28th at Phoenix before early his lone win of the season at the finale in Florida.

Because he was recovering from his injury, Hamlin raced only twice outside the Cup Series: once in the Nationwide Series and once in the Camping World Truck Series. At Texas, in the No. 20 Dollar General Camry for JGR in place of Brian Vickers, Hamlin brought home a second-place finish, while at Martinsville, competing in a Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Hamlin won the pole and finished sixth.

Mark Martin (Martinsville – 10th-place finish) and Brian Vickers (Texas – 8th, Kansas – 31st and Richmond – 35th) subbed for Hamlin while he was injured.

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