Last year's NASCAR Sprint Cup runner-up Denny Hamlin has targeted early season race wins as he bids to topple series dominator Jimmie Johnson in 2011.
With the Chase for Championship system rewarding race wins due to its revised points system, Hamlin is determined to make an early start on this year's effort to end Johnson's efforts to extend his winning streak to a record six consecutive titles.
"I'm excited to get the season going, for me there's a lot of optimism right now," Hamlin told AUTOSPORT. "This is what it's all about, and we're aiming to set the tone early for the season ahead.
"I've never won a points race at Daytona, other than a Nationwide race [in July 2008] and the Bud Shootout [in his rookie full-time Cup year in 2006], so it would mean a lot to me to win here."
Hamlin's Daytona 500 attempt started badly when his steering wheel came off in his hands as he left the pits for his qualifying laps last weekend. The 30-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota star has identified his qualifying form as a weakness from 2010.
"Qualifying is something we have to improve on this year," he said. "We're going to work on that, and we feel like we're going to improve in some areas of the race car, too, and that all adds up to good momentum. That is what we need straight from this weekend at Daytona."