From day one in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car, Denny Hamlin found magic at Pocono Raceway.
The Tricky Triangle held no mystery for the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, who won both races from the pole during his 2006 rookie season. He won at the 2.5-mile track in 2009 and again in 2010.
But when Pocono got a new asphalt surface after the 2011 season, the magic was gone. Since the resurfacing, Hamlin hasn’t finished better than fourth.
“In Turn 1, the preferred lane used to be the third lane up from the bottom,” Hamlin told the NASCAR Wire Service during an informal question-and-answer session in the Pocono media center. “The lower you got, the bumpier it got, and I was able to do some things to manipulate my line to just be better than guys lower on the race track.
“Now that the line is right on the white line (at the bottom), and you can’t really budge off that, there’s really no advantage to be had. The Tunnel Turn, I feel like we’re pretty exceptional through there still. But even in Turn 3, there were times where you could run the patch of new asphalt and times you could run the bottom, and we would be good at manipulation both lines and making it work.
“Now it’s just so pinned to the bottom and so track-position sensitive, there’s really no advantage anymore.”
Hamlin would like to see Pocono try an application of VHT traction compound to add grip in the outside lanes. That sort of treatment has been successful at such tracks as Bristol, Charlotte and New Hampshire.
“I talked to guys here at Pocono this week,” Hamlin said. “This is a race track I think would greatly benefit from it. I just think about how the racing used to be here. They had to pave a strip of pavement in (Turn 3), and it completely changed the racing at this race track.
“Now you can create that with a spray bottle… (In Turn 1), put some up there in the third lane, and we’ll go find it and put on a good show.”