With Halloween a mere month away, the season of horror movies, haunted hayrides and walk-through scare attractions is upon us. Thrill seekers and scaredy cats alike will encounter the monsters of cultural and Hollywood lore. They will attempt to conquer their fears all in the good fun of a well-controlled scare.
In the case of Denny Hamlin, however, the monster in his nightmares is not named Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.
Hamlin fears Miles the Monster and the one-mile Dover International Speedway.
In 11 starts at the speedway since 2007, Hamlin has recorded only three top-10 finishes, the most recent coming two years ago. He has led only 63 laps in his career at Dover, and he has an average finish of 20th. Simply put, Dover is Hamlin's own house of horrors.
If, however, there was ever a time during which Hamlin has looked unstoppable, it has been the past few weeks. He has won three of five races and, even after faltering at Chicagoland Speedway, is considered the biggest threat to Jimmie Johnson. He won last weekend in dominating fashion. He was also fastest in qualifying this afternoon. All of these facts seem to suggest one thing.
Denny Hamlin does not have to be afraid of the "Monster Mile" in tomorrow's AAA 400. In fact, Hamlin's Chevrolet seems to be the unstoppable monster at the moment.
It would be crazy to consider Hamlin the favorite to win tomorrow based on Johnson's record at Dover. It was a mere three months ago that Johnson drove his Madagascar 3-sponsored car to victory lane in Delaware.
Matt Kenseth has seemed to establish his reputation as a Dover master as well over the years. It is also not a stretch to say non-Chaser Kyle Busch is someone to beat tomorrow.
Still, Hamlin is hoping for a solid day, and there is no reason why he should not have one. A top five, even a top 10, would feel like a victory given his struggles.
Should Hamlin win, however, it will come as no surprise to anyone. The Hamlin of 2010 that gave Johnson a real run for his money has returned, and he doesn't look to be going away anytime soon. He will start at the front, and the rest of the field is no doubt scared that he'll finish there once the checkered flag waves.