With the Daytona 500 just weeks away, Denny Hamlin is looking for a fresh start. It all starts with a new crew chief and a new fresh FedEx paint scheme.
The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 driver is looking to improve performance in the 2019 season, and a new look and crew chief should assist in kicking that off on the right foot.
New Crew Chief
In December, JGR announced Hamlin‘s new 2019 crew chief would be Chris Gabehart, who has been with the JGR organization as a crew chief since 2016 making the calls for drivers including Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Brandon Jones, among others.
Gabehart said he was excited to get into the JGR Cup shop.
“That was definitely my goal, trying to move up through the ranks, when I proved to the company and such that I was ready to do so and an opportunity like this with Joe Gibbs Racing has all the equipment you could ever need to perform, and FedEx I think is one of the very best if not the best sponsors in the sport, and then, of course, Denny with all the capabilities he has,” he said.
New Paint Scheme
But it’s not just the crew chief that’s different. While FedEx continues to be Hamlin’s primary sponsor, they’ve revised the look of the car once again.
“… but it’s kind of the return of the white branding for FedEx on the race car,” Hamlin said.
“We haven’t had that since the inaugural season in 2005 on a full‑term basis, so I’m very excited about it. It’s something that — a paint scheme that I was involved in a little bit more. I like the cleaner lines of it, and white race cars with proper lines always look really, really good.”
Hamlin said it adds a bit of excitement, rebranding the car and firesuit to start off the year.
“It’s a new year, fresh year, and kind of ready to get going these next two weeks,” said Hamlin.
Testing in Vegas
Hamlin and Gabehart are participating in the upcoming tire test — the first of the 2019 season. A total of 14 drivers are tentatively scheduled to participate in the test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2019.
“I know for me personally, it’s all about kind of driver data, seeing how my teammates are driving this new package, the things that they’re going to get speed out of it,” Hamlin said.
“That’s kind of the gist of what I got. I think Chris will have a lot bigger scope of things that he happens to look at other than just the driver aspect. He’s going to have more data to look over than certainly, I will.”
Gabehart said with it’s really exciting to go into the test, looking at ways to attack the new rules package.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of people, especially early on, trying to figure this out, and that’s going to change from racetrack to racetrack, which is going to create good racing and I think a lot of comers and goers week to week.”
Expectations from 2018
Hamlin said his results in 2018 were not up to his expectations, nor what he or the team were capable of.
“… but sometimes in sports, you just have those seasons where things don’t go right or you just don’t get the job done at the level you expect to, and you’ve got to reset and refocus from that,” Hamlin said.
“I think this year with there being so many different changes within the cars themselves, it’s going to be pretty much a reset for everyone. That allows us to get back to square one.”
Hamlin noted that his new crew chief was in a bit of a unique position coming from the Xfinity series.
“He’s got more of a square plate to kind of work from now,” the JGR No. 11 driver said.
“He doesn’t have to look at too many old notes because of the drastic change in the cars, so it allows us all to just come in here like a new race team, like a lot of our team will be this year, and come in there refocused and get ready to hopefully win the first race of the season.”