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“When you go an entire year or more without winning, it makes you appreciate when you get back there,” said Hamlin, whose last victory came at New Hampshire in September 2012. “I think this does so much more emotionally to our confidence knowing that we can get back to the top. For me, it just makes me appreciate that opportunity that I have.”

Hamlin missed the Chase and finished 23rd in points this season.

But his win gives him confidence he can be a contender in 2014 _ much like he was in six of the previous seven seasons. His JGR teammates _ Kenseth and Kyle Busch _ finished second and fourth, respectively, in points.

“I’m glad Denny’s back,” Kenseth said. “That’s awesome. You’ve got to give it to him. He’s had a tough year. We’re all going to be strong next year.”

And Hamlin’s win also should pay dividends during NASCAR’s short offseason.

It did in 2009, when Hamlin won the season finale at Homestead and kick-started his best season. He won eight races in 2010 and nearly beat Jimmie Johnson for the title.

“I feel like there’s no reason why we can’t shoot out of the gates in `14 like we did in 2010 after winning here in 2009,” Hamlin said. “That was the point for us. When we won this race here in `09, confidence went through the roof, and 2010 was a great season for us.

“Hopefully, that repeats.”