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 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Things are changing at Joe Gibbs Racing. And Denny Hamlin couldn't more excited about the direction.
Hamlin said the organization had some ``big meetings'' this week, and he believes everyone at JGR understands what must be done to improve.
This season Kyle Busch and Hamlin have combined for five victories for JGR, and both are in the 12-man Chase for a championship. Busch is eighth, 20 points behind leader Carl Edwards, while Hamlin is 12th, 79 points back.
That's not good enough for Hamlin or JGR, which has won three Sprint Cup titles since 2000.
``You look and the 18 (Kyle Busch) hasn't been leading as many laps here lately as what he has in the past,'' Hamlin said. ``Everyone's starting to figure out that we have to work. I think everyone's on board at this point, and you're going to start to see JGR take a turn.''
He hopes the improvement begins at the Bank of America 500 on Saturday. He'll start 17th, one spot behind teammate Joey Logano. Busch starts 25th. Hamlin hasn't posted a top 10 since Richmond last month and has led only six laps in his last nine races.
Hamlin acknowledged he shut down a bit in midseason, frustrated over JGR's rash of blown engines and mechanical issues early in the season. ``I wasn't giving up on them, but it was a sense of I was just like, 'What does it matter how fast our cars are if we can't finish?' type of attitude,'' he said.
Hamlin has been more involved in recent weeks and sees a late season push as a springboard to 2012.
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DALE JR'S YEAR: Dale Earnhardt Jr. likes the progress his Hendrick Motorsports team has made this season. He understands, though, that it's not enough.
Earnhardt is back in the championship chase for the first time in three years and stands in eighth place, 43 points behind leader Carl Edwards. But Earnhardt made it on consistency, not victories. His winless streak has grown to 123 since his last victory at Michigan in June 2008.
``We want to win races, and it's going to be a disappointment if we do not win a race,'' Earnhardt said. ``We are happy with the gains that we have made, and I think that the team and Steve (Letarte, crew chief) expect more and I do, too.''
Earnhardt looked like he would end the losing streak here at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. He was out in front and cruising on the final lap of the Coca Cola 600 when his fuel tank ran dry on the backstretch and Kevin Harvick took the victory.
Will Junior push things to the limit, perhaps even take a crazy gamble, to end the streak with so few races left?
If a victory is within sight, Earnhardt said he might roll the dice more than usual. ``But nothing stupid,'' he said. ``You don't want to make such a ridiculous call that you look foolish.''
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TALLADEGA TATTOOS: Matt Kenseth fans have a chance to get an autograph that could take a lot of effort to get rid of.
Kenseth's sponsor, Jeremiah Weed, is offering free permanent tattoos of Kenseth's signature to adult race fans throughout next weekend's races at Talladega Superspeedway.
For each tattoo, the malt beverage maker will donate $100 to Air Force Village, which helps spouses of retired officers.
Less adventurous supporters can get an airbrushed tattoo for free.
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LUG NUTS: JR Motorsports will have TaxSlayer.com as its sponsor for 14 races next season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will run the car at Daytona and Bristol, while Aric Amirola will drive it the other 12 races. ... Sinica Motorsports will run the No. 93 Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series for 10-to-15 races in 2012. NASCAR truck driver Grant Enfinger will be the driver and Allen Wellman the crew chief. ... Jimmie Johnson is tied with NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for the most alltime victories at Charlotte with six each. ... Kenny Wallace is making his 519th Nationwide start, tying the record held by Jason Keller.

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