And even with new race car drivers, a new team, a new sponsor amidst a new season, Darian Grubb still has the ball rolling that stole the Sprint Cup from the clutches of Carl Edwards and Roush-Fenway Racing by a matter of seconds. Fired by Tony Stewart? It's on-to-the-next-one. This time with Jordan-branded, Joe Gibbs Racing sensation, Toyota Camry-racing Denny Hamlin, who—after last year's effort-- is in need of some confidence. And what better than the man who last year found his driver almost out of the chase, told he was going to be fired and just took his back against the wall and pushed, pushed and pushed all the way to the Sprint Cup.
With a victory at Phoenix, Denny Hamlin enjoyed his first win on the course in his 14th start there. It's also the 2nd victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, the 1st coming ironically coming from Tony Stewart back in 1999. Hamlin, who started 13th, ended up becoming the third winner in the past 5 victorious race car drivers to start outside the Top 10. This victory combined with a fourth-place finish at Daytona has placed Hamlin over Roush-Fenway superstar and Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth, with a sizeable—albeit early, lead in the Sprint Cup standings. "We've never been in this position this early in the season," Hamlin told TV reporters in Victory Lane on Sunday.
Phoenix had been a place of horrors for Hamlin. Not only with the 14-race draught but also because of issues similar to the November 2010 fuel-injector incident forcing him to make a late pit stop. Overcoming that previous demon, however, is only the first step. Yes, it's very early in the season to make any determination for race car drivers at this point. Hamlin, wholed the race at Phoenix 3 times for a total of 61 laps including the final 59, got a few great things going for him. Darian Grubb is the hottest thing in NASCAR right now momentum-wise. This victory marks the 6th of the last 12 cup races for Grubb, and the 198th win for the #11 car, tying the legendary #43 for the most in NASCAR history.
So having the crew chief that engineered the greatest comeback in Sprint Cup history as well as the NASCAR number driven by the greats: Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliot, Brett Bodine, Ricky Craven, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip—the last driver to win the Cup with it, Denny Hamlin can sure find himself in the company of some serious race car drivers.