Denny Hamlin is one of the most accomplished drivers in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series.
He has won 51 races, including the Daytona 500 three times. He was named to NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers list earlier this year. He even made history by becoming a team owner of 23XI Racing, while still driving for Joe Gibbs Racing simultaneously. The list of accomplishments for Hamlin is as plentiful as the day is long. However, there is one glaring omission in his 18-year career. He has never won a Cup Series Championship.
Hamlin came up in the mid-2000s and broke through immediately, winning two races and finishing his first full season in third place in the Cup Series standings. The next four years established Hamlin as a contender in the series, culminating with a career-high eight wins in 2010 and a second-place finish in the standings.
From that point on, Hamlin was consistently among the favorites to win title each year. He racked up 12 season finishes inside the top six. He has five finishes in the top three. However, the title has eluded him. Hamlin has had multiple chances and been in the final four several times in NASCAR’s newest playoff format, including the 2020 season in which he won seven races but again fell short in the championship race.
For whatever reason, it just has not happened for the now 42 year-old driver.
Throughout the first decade-plus of Denny’s career, he was a moderately popular driver. While he never took NASCAR’s “Most Popular” title from Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Chase Elliott, he seemed to be generally well-liked among fans. He had teammates that were much more polarizing, such as Kyle Busch. The past few years, however, have been interesting run for Hamlin from that perspective.
NASCAR fans are quite unique. In some ways, you do not seem to have full control of how well-liked you are. After all, Dale Earnhardt was beloved for his hard-nosed, pushing and shoving guys out of the way mentality to win races. Now, it feels like drivers who do those things are hated. Hamlin has been at the forefront of some of those arguments over the past few years. He has had run-ins with the likes of Ross Chastain, William Byron, and most recently Kyle Larson.
Interestingly enough, the veteran version of Denny Hamlin has become less popular with fans, it seems. He was booed after a controversial move led to a win at Pocono. Then, after a big win in the playoffs at Bristol last week, he was booed again.
Despite the negative attention, Hamlin does not seem ready to change his ways. After all, he hosts a podcast titled “Actions Detrimental” where he gives plenty of unfiltered takes. The veteran version of Hamlin also owns a race team in 23XI, that he competes against. He clearly is not afraid to shake up what is normal in the sport.
With all that being said, Denny knows the clock is ticking on his chances to win a championship. As we enter the Round of 12 this year, he has as good a chance as ever to finally get it done. If one thing is for sure, it seems obvious that Denny is going to give it everything he has and is not concerned if he ruffles some feathers along the way.
Dawson Eiserloh is the co-host of “RP3, D-Loh & Meche” which is broadcast weekdays (11-1) on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles — Southwest Louisiana’s Sports Station.