Denny Hamlin to Partner With New NASCAR Crew Chief for 2019 Season
The NASCAR veteran had his first winless season since going full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin will have a different crew chief in 2019. It hasn’t been announced who it will be, but it's been clarified that it won’t be Mike “Wheels” Wheeler.
“He was a guy that was always working his way up the ladder within JGR, within the engineering program. He’s super smart, like I said, a great friend of mine. The spot was always his,” Hamlin said at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend. “But, obviously, it’s a big performance business, and even though ‑‑ if you compare us to other drivers that people think are having a great season, and we’re actually having a better season, it’s kind of unfair. You know, that’s just the standards which we have for ourselves. We just ‑‑ a change is going to be made, and that’s all I can really say about it.”
Hamlin went winless in 2018, his first winless season in the Cup Series since becoming a full-time driver in 2006. He finished the season 11th in the points standings, his first year outside the top 10 since he missed four races in 2013. The only other season he finished outside the top 10 after running all races on the schedule was 2007.
Hamlin's most recent win was in the 2017 Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.
Hamlin chose Wheeler as his crew chief ahead of the 2016 NASCAR season. The future full-time Cup Series crew chief previously was an engineer on Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team. He also was a substitute crew chief for Darian Grubb atop Hamlin’s pit box in 2014. Hamlin is the only driver with which Wheeler has worked as a crew chief in NASCAR’s top series. As a driver/crew chief pairing, they have worked together for 112 races.