Hamlin expects to contend Saturday night

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, drives his car during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on September 20, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Virginia native Denny Hamlin has three victories at Richmond Raceway, his home track. He has led 1,659 laps at the .75-mile short track, more than at any other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series venue.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Hamlin expects to run away with Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), even though he posted the fastest 10-consecutive-lap average (118.289 mph) in Friday’s final practice.

“I felt pretty good with it, Hamlin said of the performance of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “I thought that we had a few decent runs. There are five or six other guys that are right there pretty close. I don’t anticipate a runaway. If we do, it will be a great change of pace. Just looking back at the spring race here, we had to start last due to a qualifying deal, and it took the entire race to get up to the top-five.

“It’s amazing how much aerodynamics play on such a short track like this. It’s very tough to pass. Not impossible, but it’s tough. If you get in the back of the pack, if you make a mistake, you will not win this race. Nobody with a speeding penalty will come back and win this race. You can mark that down. Or any pit road penalty.”

A victory at Richmond would mean more to Hamlin than automatic advancement into the Round of 12 of the Playoffs. The track continues to hold special significance for the 38-year-old driver, who won his first Richmond race in 2009.

“For the longest time, I had the date of my first Richmond win on my shoes for probably five or six years, so it was definitely significant being that it is in the hometown,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin starts 6th Saturday night.