- November 18, 1980
- United States
- Nascar Cup Series
- Joe Gibbs Racing
Denny Hamlin is one of the best NASCAR drivers in the 2010s, although he is still waiting for his championship trophy in the Cup Series. Between 2005 and 2019, Hamlin scored 37 Cup Series victory and his best result in the championship was second place in 2010.
He also collected 19 wins in other two national divisions - seventeen in the NASCAR Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series and two wins in the NASCAR Truck Series.
James Dennis Alan Hamlin was born in November 1980 in Tampa, Florida. He spent most of his childhood in Chesterfield, Virginia, where he started racing go-karts at the age of seven.
At the age of 16, Denny started racing in mini stocks and managed to win on his debut. In 1998, Hamlin moved to Grand Stock and after two years he raced in the Late Model Stock Cars.
Joe Gibbs Racing spotted Hamlin's talent
Over the years, his results in the series were really impressive, so Joe Gibbs Racing decided to sign a driver development contract with Hamlin before making a debut in the NASCAR Craftsman World Truck and NASCAR Busch Series in 2004. He drove in only a couple of races and did really well, especially in his single Busch appearance at Darlington where he finished 8th.
During his career, Hamlin rarely entered Truck Series events before he completely retired from the series in 2013. He drove in only 16 races during nine years and scored two wins, both at Martinsville. He focused at Busch Series in 2005, driving a full season and finishing 5th overall. He also debuted in the Cup, driving in the last seven races of the season and scoring three Top 10s.
The 2006 NASCAR Rookie of the Year
Since 2006, Denny Hamlin is a regular driver of Joe Gibbs Racing’s car #11. It was Chevrolet until 2007, while since 2008 Hamlin is behind the wheel of a Toyota. In his first full-time season in the Cup, Denny won two races, both at Pocono, but also notched 18 Top 10 finishes to finish 3rd in the standings, behind Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. He became the only rookie to qualify for Chase for the Cup and also was voted 2006 Rookie of the Year.
The same year, he was also great in the Busch Series. Hamlin won his first NASCAR race in Mexico City, adding another win at Darlington later that year. At the end of the campaign, he was 4th, which is a pretty good result and he should definitely be satisfied with his accomplishment.
Picking the experience
In 2007, Denny entered only selected NASCAR Nationwide Series races. He managed to win three races and eventually finished 13th in the final standings. Racing in the Cup was his main duty and he was hungry for success. However, Hamlin couldn’t repeat the results from the previous year but still did well. He won only one race, at New Hampshire, but had many Top 5 and Top 10 places to finish 12th overall.
The following year was pretty much the same as the previous one: Hamlin again had only one race win, this time at Martinsville, and again had plenty of Top 5 finishes to take the 8th place in the standings. Interestingly, Hamlin raced in only 10 Nationwide Series events and won four of them, adding another four finishes in Top 5.
During the season of 2009, Hamlin established himself as one of the best drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series. In the first half of the season he was in solid form, scoring many Top 5s, but in the second half of the year his form improved rapidly. Denny won four races, at Pocono, Martinsville, Richmond, and Homestead, and took the 5th place in the final standings.
Narrowly missing the title in 2010
Many people thought that Hamlin will be crowned as the new NASCAR Cup champion in 2010. Even Denny himself was thinking that he is ready for the triumph. Nevertheless, Hamlin finished the season as a runner-up, losing to Jimmie Johnson by only 39 points. An interesting fact is that Hamlin had a knee injury (cruciate ligament sprain) before the start of the campaign and underwent an operation after winning the race at Martinsville in March.
His recovery was quick and Denny was able to return to the seat of his car three weeks later. Later in the season, he achieved six other wins and many Top 10s and was really close to the trophy. Before the last race of the season at Homestead, Hamlin led in the championship, with 15 points more than Johnson. Unfortunately, Denny finished 14th in the race while Johnson was 2nd which brought him another Cup trophy.
Ups and downs
Somewhat disappointed after missing a great chance to become a champion, Hamlin was far from the top in 2011. His only victory was at Michigan while in the championship standings he dropped to the 9th position. Things became better in 2012, when Hamlin scored five wins. For the second time in his career, Denny won the race at New Hampshire, while for the first time he had triumphed at Phoenix, Kansas, Bristol, and Atlanta before he took the 6th position in the Cup final classification.
The season of 2013 definitely was the worst in Hamlin’s career so far. Too many crashes and unsporting rivalry with Joey Logano cost him too much. After the two crashed at Fontana, Hamlin left his car but soon collapsed and was airlifted to hospital where he was diagnosed with a compression fracture. He was forced to miss the next four races and when he returned to the track, Denny was unable to find his old form. Winning the season closing race at Homestead was the consolation for the 23rd place in the championship that year.
Video : Logano wrecks Hamlin at Fontana
Another missed opportunity of winning Sprint Cup Series
In 2014, Hamlin was in better shape, finishing the season in 3rd place behind Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman but in front of Joey Logano. The gaps between the top three drivers before the last round were so tight that Hamlin had a chance to win the title, but the wrong decision of his crew chief cost him the race so he finished in 7th place. Denny missed another excellent chance to become a champion.
At the end, Hamlin was only 7 points behind Harvick and 6 behind Newman. His only victory was at Talladega but during the second half of the season, he regularly finished races in Top 10.
Daytona 500 victory in 2016
However, Hamlin could hardly recover after yet another missed opportunity, so he dropped down to the 9th place in the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Victory at Martinsville was his only triumph that season.
However, the start of 2016 was promising. For the first time, Hamlin won a season-opening race at Daytona and also won at Watkins Glen, which was his first victory scored at non-oval tracks. He ended sixth in the final standings.
In 2017, Hamlin added two wins on his account, dropping out from the title fight in the Championship 8 round of the Playoffs. He was sixth in the final standings again.
Daytona 500 winner, championship contender in 2019
Hamlin scored no victories in 2018, recording ten Top 5 results, including third place at Daytona 500. Then, in 2019, the situation was completely opposite as Denny scored six victories in the #11 Toyota Camry, including one more triumph at Daytona 500. He entered the season's finale as one of four championship contenders.
When he is not on the track, Denny Hamlin is still occupied with the sports. He is a fan of the NBA team Charlotte Hornets and NFL team Washington Redskins. His hobbies include golf, basketball, boating, traveling, skiing, playing cards and raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis research through the Denny Hamlin Foundation.