Hamlin did a lot of talking prior to the 2010 season, but he delivered a career year that nearly ended with the Cup Series title. He notched a series-high eight victories and compiled a career-best 12.9 average finish. Even though he ultimately gave away the title in the season finale, his breakout year established Hamlin as one of the elite fantasy options in NASCAR.
Assuming he can shake off the disappointment of losing a golden opportunity to win the title, fantasy owners should expect another big year from Hamlin. The inconsistencies that had plagued him at intermediate tracks vanished last season as he notched five wins and compiled an 11.4 average finish in the 24 events. He scored wins at Darlington, Texas and Michigan for the first time in his career, and there is a good chance he will add a few more tracks to his resume this season.
He ranked in the top 15 in terms of points scored at all track types in 2010, with the exception of road courses, and he finished the year as the top-scoring driver at short tracks. That type of all-around talent is why Hamlin deserves to be a top-three pick in fantasy drafts. There just aren't that many drivers that can be counted on regardless of the track type.
Coming off the best year of his career, anything less than a championship in 2011 will be a disappointment. His only real weakness last season was poor qualifying efforts, and Hamlin already made it clear he plans to address the problem. Whether or not he can dethrone Jimmie Johnson remains to be seen, but he should pile up plenty of wins and top-five finishes along the way.
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