Denny Hamlin’s NASCAR Misery: Can Joe Gibbs’ Superstar Snag Elusive Championship Title?

For Joe Gibbs Racing star Denny Hamlin, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season seems like a do-or-die affair. The 42-year-old has been a full-time Cup Series for quite a while now. In that time, he has won multiple races, stirred up controversies and even became a team owner. But the one thing he has not been able to do for so long is win the Cup Series. This year, he has looked sharp behind the wheel and is considered a favorite to win the title. At this stage in his career, it is one of his last opportunities to do so. But will he be able to pull it off?

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After the first race of the round of 12, Hamlin sits in second place on the Cup Series table. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver etched his superstar status in the round of 16. The race saw him win the final race at the iconic Bristol track a couple of weeks ago. Last Sunday at Texas, he finished in fifth place. Although his place in the round of 8 is uncertain, it is likely that the driver of the #11 will qualify comfortably. It’s a reasonable assumption to make given his form and his points tally. Nevertheless, can he avoid the pitfalls and attain glory?

Denny Hamlin has fallen short of his goal far too many times


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Hamlin made his debut in the Cup in 2005. Since then, there have been several opportunities where he has come close to winning the crown. However, he has fallen short every single time. The first time he came close to winning the title was in his full-time rookie season in 2006 when he finished third in the Cup Series. That year, Jimmie Johnson won the first of his five consecutive titles.

He finished second in 2010 in a season that saw him win an incredible eight races. Despite the tremendous milestone, he still came up short. Four years after that, Hamlin came close to the Cup Series title yet again as he finished in third place. Since then, it was a struggle for a few years for him to get near the title picture for a few years, until recently.

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Fans then saw a late-blooming Denny Hamlin really start to get into his stride in the Cup Series. The trend started from the 2019 season four years ago. In these four years, Hamlin has been in the final championship 4 three times. It would have been four out of four but for one of the most outrageous overtakes the sport has ever seen, but we’ll come to that later.

In 2019, Hamlin finished in 10th place in the final race which saw his then-teammate Kyle Busch win the race and the Cup Series. The following year, Hamlin once again found himself in the final four and he came quite close to winning the whole thing. But 2020 was the year of an up-and-coming Chase Elliott who was determined to make his mark in motorsports. Hamlin finished fourth and Elliott won the race.

In 2021 once again, Denny Hamlin was in the mix for a championship win. This time, he did even better than the year before but just fell short against another Hendrick Motorsports driver, Kyle Larson. He finished third that year.

The Joe Gibbs Racing star was all set to make it four out of four in 2022 but an outrageous last-lap pass by Ross Chastain at Martinsville ruined his chances to go for the gold yet again. The #11 driver was understandably disappointed and said that they did not do enough to make it to Phoenix.

“We didn’t do good enough, and we lost on a move, which is fair game. There’s nothing else I feel like I could have done differently,” he said at the time.

Things feel a bit different in 2023. Denny Hamlin feels a bit different. There is a sense of determination these days every time he’s out there on track. The 42-year-old has always been a fantastic racer but what he has done brilliantly this year is driving smart. No unnecessary risks, no need to be aggressive when it isn’t required, and never letting lose sight of the goal.

Signs point to the #11 car doing the victory lap at Phoenix

If one analyzes the results of only the past four years, one can see a pattern. In 2021, he did not make it to the final four but only due to one of those freak moments in NASCAR. Otherwise, there can be no doubt that he would have made it to the final four and we might not be having so many conversations about the #11 not winning the Cup.


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In 2019, Denny Hamlin reached the final 4 and finished in 10th place. In 2020, he made the top 4 and finished in 4th place. The following year, he made the top 4 and finished in 3rd place. The pattern is quite obvious. Every single time Denny Hamlin has made the championship race in the past four years, he has improved on his performance.


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Going by this trend, one can assume that if he claims a final-four spot in 2023, there is a high possibility of the championship-less Joe Gibbs Racing driver finally breaking the curse and getting his hands on the gold.

Of course, it won’t be easy, but Denny Hamlin has undoubtedly been one of the best drivers in the competition this year. There is no question about it, 2023 is perhaps the best chance Hamlin has to win the Cup given his speed and consistency. But will he actually be able to carry it all the way to Phoenix in October? Only time will tell.

Author: ZeroToHero

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