PIR's flat, fast 1-mile oval right in Hamlin's wheelhouse

Denny Hamlin doesn't have a lot to race for as far as the Chase is concerned. But putting together a couple of strong runs would be a good way to end the season, he writes in his diary.

Updated: November 7, 2008, 7:23 PM ET
By Denny Hamlin

Phoenix is one of the more unique tracks we visit, and it's a favorite of mine. I made my first start here back in the fall of 2005, and even though I had only been in a Cup car a handful of times, I won my first pole here that weekend.

Even though I didn't know it then, to have a success like that so early in your career is pretty rare, and it seems like every time I come back here I always think about winning that pole and think, "Man, if I was able to do it then when I had zero experience, why is it now that I know all this but I can't get out of my own way?" That's the way racing is, though. Everyone is working so hard to find that slight advantage mechanically, while the drivers are working to find that slight edge on the track. All you can do is keep working at getting better, but I still think about winning that pole and it seems like a long time ago, and I certainly didn't know what was ahead of me as I started my Cup career. I do think it's cool that most of the crew that was here that day is still here now. That says a lot about this FedEx team.

This is a great track, and it really suits my driving style. It's fast, but it's flat, and you have to have a really good-handling car to make your way to the front here. We've been able to do that and we have three third-place finishes to show for it. While that's pretty good, we also feel like we let a couple of potential wins get away. We've had some engine problems, pit-road penalties and fuel-mileage issues and those have kept us from getting wins here. I am hoping this weekend we can get all of that behind us and get that elusive win at PIR. If this team can put together a full race with no issues, there is no reason we can't win here.

After Texas and before coming to Phoenix I made a stop in Las Vegas for the SEMA show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was a cool experience, and some of the new technology is really unbelievable. I highly recommend the show to anyone who loves cars -- try to make it there if you have the chance.

After this weekend we'll have only one race left -- the season finale at Homestead. I am hoping we can string together a couple of good runs and get back into the top 10 before the season ends. It would be nice to go out on a high note, then recharge for the 2009 season.

Denny Hamlin drives the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry. He shares his weekly thoughts on and off the track with readers with the help of writer Angelique S. Chengelis.