Denny Hamlin wants to be the “last one” again

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 26: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For nine years Denny Hamlin came to Daytona International Speedway preparing to start the NASCAR season.  Each of those nine years, like all the drivers racing in NASCAR’s Cup season, Hamlin has been “excited” to race in the season opening Daytona 500.

This year however it’s a bit different. Last season Hamlin beat Martin Truex Jr. to the line to win in the closest Daytona 500 in history.

The inevitable question becomes can he do it again? A back to back Daytona 500 isn’t unheard of, but it’s rare. Sterling Marlin was the last to do it in 1994-1995.

“The odds are stacked against you,” Hamlin said Wednesday at the Daytona 500 media day. “If this was Martinsville I’d say the odds would be really good., or Richmond or somewhere like that. But Daytona, we all know that the entire field could win the race. We’ve seen very unexpected winners in the past. It’s just because there’s a lot of attrition, a lot of things can happen, and there’s just more drivers that can win this week, than say in Atlanta next week. So that makes it very, very hard to repeat and that’s why you’ve seen just a few drivers do it.”

Hamlin said he has the motivation however, to do it again.

“It’s definitely different as far as the Daytona 500 is concerned, coming back,” Hamlin said. “Our finish last year was the ‘last one’, and I know that for only two more days people are going to be talking about me and the ’last one’. Unless I do it again.

‘We’re always going to be forgotten. I just think about, before us it was Joey (Logano), hardly anything is ever said about Joey and his 500 because it wasn’t the ‘last one’.  That’s why I enjoy these moments of coming back, especially media day because people are talking about the ‘lat one’. That fuels my passion; to be the ‘last one’ again after Sunday.”

“Hopefully we are rolling one Daytona 500 car out and rolling another one into the museum. That’s my motivation to do this again,” he added.