Hamlin ready for a new beginning

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 13: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin speaks to the media during the 2014 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 13: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin speaks to the media during the 2014 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — There’s no driver in the garage who’s happier than Denny Hamlin to see the end of the offseason.

For obvious reasons, Hamlin is eager to forget the 2013 season, even though he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota missed four races with a compression fracture of his first lumbar vertebra, the result of an accident at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) in late March.

Though he won a series-best five Coors Light Pole Awards, Hamlin crashed out of four races and suffered three engine failures after returning to action.

“Usually, you’re kind of thinking about the grind’s about to start and you’re about to spend a lot of time away from home,” Hamlin said. “But for me, I’m one of the few drivers that couldn’t get this offseason over quick enough, because as soon as we hit the race track, 2013 is over, and 2014 has started, and we can stop talking about last year.

“I’m excited for that part of it. So for me, it’s the anticipation, and (from) what I’ve seen from testing, I believe that we’re going to be one of the guys that come out pretty strong pretty early, and that’s typically not how we start anyway.”

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