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Denny Hamlin used to be Mr. Pocono early in his career.
The Joe Gibbs driver had a dominant run at the tri-oval.
His first win in the Cup Series came at the track in 2006.
Hamlin started the June race, still a 500-mile event back then, from the pole and won leading 81 laps.
He completed the sweep a month later, winning from the pole once again and leading 151 of 200 laps.
The dominance continued, with #11 adding a third and a fourth win in 2009 and 2010.
The numbers during that span are impressive.
In ten starts at Pocono, Hamlin scored four wins, six top 3, seven top 5 and eight top 10.
He, however, never regained that early career form.
In fact, things went the other way at the tricky triangle for #11.
Denny Hamlin has three top 5, six top 10 and one pole-position in 16 starts since then.
His best results at Pocono over the last eight years were two fourth-place finishes.
Even his starting positions suffered a significant drop.
The Joe Gibbs driver started lower than seventh twice in his first ten races.
Since then, that has happened eight times in 16 starts.
His front row starts went from three in ten to three in 16.
What: Pocono 400
Where: Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA
When: Sunday, June 2nd at 2:00 PM EST
How: FS1 (TV) | Motor Racing Network (Web radio)
At first glance, it might be hard to tell what went wrong.
Hamlin won races through two different generations of cars, so the setup doesn’t play a part.
There has been one key change that might explain this, however.
With the race being shortened to 400 miles in 2012, Hamlin’s form also suffered a drop.
His four wins at Pocono had the common trend of climbing to the front towards the final laps.
In fact, Hamlin never led at the 400-mile mark in his four wins.
Looking at this interesting and unusual stat, it’s fair to say that #11 has struggled to adapt.
Although the race doesn’t have a neck-breaking pace, it’s still faster than the longer 500-mile events.
This could be the explanation to the Joe Gibbs’ driver bad form at Pocono in recent years.
Despite a recent drop in performance, Denny Hamlin’s 2019 has gone a lot better than his 2018.
The Joe Gibbs driver left his only winless season behind by taking a second career victory at the Daytona 500.
It snapped a winless streak of 47 races, Hamlin’s second longest of that kind.
His good form continued, with a worst finish of 11th through the first nine races.
The early season run had him second in points, having scored another win at Texas.
Hamlin has seen a bit of a drop since Talladega, failing to score a top 15 in three starts.
This has dropped #11 to seventh in points.
His fortune didn’t improve at Charlotte, with a last-lap crash taking him out of contention.
Hamlin looked set for a tenth place finish, which would make it three Gibbs cars in the top 10.
That marked JGR’s series-leading eighth win of the year in 13 starts.
With the team in great form, Hamlin has a shot at recovering his Pocono magic.
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