Relax, It’s Denny Hamlin

denny hamlin and kid rock

It’s hard to believe how fast kids grow up these days. It’s been one NASCAR year since Denny Hamlin took over as driver of the JGR Fed Ex #11.

That’s right. Denny debuted his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career at the site of this weeks race, Kansas Speedway, on October 9, 2005 at the Banquet 400. For Joe Gibbs Racing fans and Fed Ex…it was none too soon.

The #11 Fed Ex car had a miserable season up to that point. Even with veteran Terry Labonte behind the wheel, the #11 car was definitely not delivering.

Three different drivers tried racing the #11 car during the first 29 races of the 2005 NASCAR season. All with no success.

  • Jason Leffler raced 14 races with an average finish of 29th.
  • Terry Labonte raced 4 races with an average finish of 28th.
  • JJ Yeley raced 4 races with an average finish of 32nd.

The team was even forced to have Bobby Labonte race his #18 car adorned with the Fed Ex paint scheme at the Coca Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The #11 couldn’t qualify.

Denny Hamlin Saves The Day

One year ago, the #11 car rolls out at Kansas Speedway with Denny Hamlin behind the wheel. Who?

Denny finished 32nd that day. A little worse than par for the course with the #11 car. It was getting quite embarrassing. I remember wondering if Fed Ex would even stick around another year.

But wait! Then it was off to Lowe’s Motor Speedway and although they qualified 39th, Denny brought the car home to an 8th place finish. It gets better! The next week at Martinsville Speedway he qualified 5th and finished 8th again. A few weeks later at Phoenix International Raceway the wonder kid from Virginia is on the pole! Denny finishes out the year with an average finish position of 17th

The New Face of Fed Ex

We never saw a single ad with Denny Hamlin driving the ‘Big White Truck’. Never saw any challenges for the Fed Ex truck vs. the UPS truck. We did see ‘this kid’ driving lawn mowers, speedboats, golf carts…and one fast race car.

We’ve also seen the dead-on, runaway winner of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year and maybe even the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion.

Denny Hamlin has had a phenomenal year. He currently sits 3rd in the NASCAR points. He has 3 Poles, 2 Wins, 6 Top-5 and 16 Top-10 finishes. His average finish over the 2006 race year is 12th.

The #11 car has come a long way in one year. I’m betting it will do better than 32nd tomorrow on Denny’s 1-year anniversary at Kansas Speedway.