Commentary

No. 11 team has some work to do before embarking on busy offseason

Denny Hamlin's not racing for a title at Homestead-Miami, but a win Sunday would give the No. 11 team a jolt of momentum heading into the offseason, he writes in his diary.

Updated: November 16, 2008, 5:47 PM ET
By Denny Hamlin

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- This is what it all comes down to, the 36th points race of our season and the final chance to grab a win. We're not racing for a championship this season, but we still have a lot to be proud of, and we would like nothing more than to win here on Sunday and head into the offseason with some momentum.

I remember coming here in 2006 when I was a rookie and we were still in contention for the championship. I remember how much greater the hype was because we were one of the top five Chase contenders and the championship was much closer. I probably didn't know then how hard it actually is to win races and run really consistently at the Cup level and get in that position because I was still new to it. Now, after having three full seasons under my belt, I know how hard it is to reach that level, and it really drives me and this team on as we look to get back to challenging for a championship.

We've had our ups and downs this season, but we have a lot to be proud about. When we set our goals at the beginning of the season we always put making the Chase at the top of the list, and I am happy that we made it for the third year in a row. It's a big accomplishment and one that this team and everyone who supports us can be really proud of. Now we just want to take that success to the next level -- win more races, run in the top five more consistently and then really challenge for a championship when the Chase rolls around. We're working really hard to reach that level.

With as long as this season is, I'm looking forward to putting it behind us. I want to spend some time at home and enjoy the holidays. This is a long season, but I know how lucky I am to be involved in this sport and doing what I am doing, so as much I want to rest, I'm also looking forward to the challenge of next season.

I'm planning on taking it pretty easy through the offseason, but I am taking a cool trip this next week. I'm flying to Japan for the Toyota Motorsports Festival at Fuji Speedway. It's a huge deal for Toyota, and in addition to having a Cup car, which I will be driving, they are going to have their F1 team there as well. It should be a great experience.

We're going to start 25th on Sunday, and even though we never qualify very well, we always seem to finish good here. The past two seasons we've started in the 30s and raced our way back up to third place at the end. Hopefully we'll be right there again this time around.

I want to thank everyone for their support this season. It's been a roller coaster for sure, but we definitely had more good days than bad. We'll be looking to work hard this offseason and get right back to it come February when we go to Daytona.

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

ALSO SEE