NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 3 Denny Hamlin

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Denny Hamlin

Season finish: 3rd
2014 Season Stats: 1 win (Talladega, spring), 7 Top-5s, 18 Top-10s, 3 Poles.

What went right: After enduring a 2013 season that was largely forgettable save for his win at Homestead, Hamlin locked up a Chase for the Sprint Cup spot early in 2014 with a victory at Talladega. An up-and-down summer and then a narrow escape from the Chase’s opening Challenger Round followed, but Hamlin and the 11 team caught fire at the right time (one Top-5 and four Top-10s across the Contender and Eliminator Rounds) to break into the Championship Race at Homestead.

What went wrong: Hamlin made the Championship 4, but it was a challenging road to get there. Let’s count the obstacles: 1) He missed Fontana due to a piece of metal getting stuck in his eye; 2) His Toyota was relatively down on power for much of the year; 3) His team was severely penalized following the Brickyard 400; and 4) He was involved at Charlotte in the first of two post-race fights in this year’s Chase.

He overcame it all but in the title decider at Homestead, a decision by crew chief Darian Grubb to not pit for fresh tires backfired due to several late cautions. On old rubber, Hamlin was eventually gobbled up by Kevin Harvick, who went on to win the title; Hamlin finished seventh in the race.

2015 Prospectus: In the wake of Joe Gibbs Racing’s recent crew chief shuffle, Hamlin’s partnership with Grubb has come to a close. Grubb has taken over as CC for Carl Edwards in JGR’s new No. 19 team, and replacing him on the 11 pit box will be Dave Rogers, formerly the CC for Kyle Busch.

Hamlin and Rogers should get along okay, but the loss of Hamlin’s long-time engineer, Mike Wheeler (who will crew chief for JGR’s No. 20 XFINITY Series squad next year) might have a negative impact. The team, along with the rest of the Toyota stable for that matter, also can’t afford to be at a power deficit again in 2015.

Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick team up again on NBC’s Indy 500 coverage

Danica Patrick Mike Tirico
Stephen King/IndyCar
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Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick will return to NBC Sports’ coverage of the Indianapolis 500, which will be broadcast Aug. 23 at 1 p.m. ET on NBC (green flag at 2:30 p.m.).

Tirico and Patrick, who both joined NBC Sports for its inaugural coverage of the event last year, will reprise their roles as host and studio analyst.

One of the most versatile voices in sports, Tirico also hosts NBC Olympics’ primetime coverage, Football Night in America and many other premier events, including hosting on-site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year for the first-ever IndyCar-NASCAR crossover weekend.

AT THE BRICKYARD: Daily Indy 500 coverage schedule on NBC, NBCSN

He again will be joined during prerace, in-race, and postrace coverage by Patrick, who became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 in 2005 and also was the first female pole-sitter in NASCAR driver.

They will make their debut together duing practice coverage on Aug. 21, on NBCSN.

“My first Indy 500 last year exceeded my very high expectations in every way,” Tirico said in a release. “Although this year’s race will take place under unprecedented circumstances, I can’t wait to get back to Indy. I’m confident that our team at the Brickyard will provide viewers with as exciting a viewing experience as possible. I am also thrilled that Danica Patrick is along for the ride again this year. We had such a great time last May and look forward to bringing Indy home for the viewers again.”

Said Patrick: “The Indianapolis 500 is an event that transcends mainstream and motorsports which is why it’s so special. We are living during a time that if we can bring people together, we should. Even if it’s not physically. I am honored to be back with the NBC Sports team and Mike Tirico. The memories I have from 15 years at IMS hold such a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to make more this year in the booth, or however we are positioned in 2020!”

This will mark NBC Sports’ second season as the exclusive home of the NTT IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500, which will take place in August for the first time ever because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.