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Denny Hamlin Reups with Joe Gibbs Racing: Was It the Right Move?

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Joshua Lipowski

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Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing officially announced a contract extension on Labor Day in one of, if not the, biggest “Silly Season” domino to fall. Hamlin would definitely have had options on the table if he chose to leave JGR, so, is sticking with the team that he has been with for his entire career the “Right” move?

Where Would Hamlin Go if He Left JGR?

Denny Hamlin had an option if he chose to leave JGR, and, given the fact that he is a 50-time race winner, teams would have been lining up for his services. However, the teams available probably would not have been nearly as competitive for Hamlin.

If the 23XI to Ford rumors actually happened, Hamlin’s options would have been limited. Stewart-Haas Racing might have been available, but, that team has struggled immensely this year.

Maybe Front Row Motorsports was an option at some point this season, but that is a crowded room with Michael McDowell, Todd Gilliland, and Zane Smith. It’s also a team that, while it is improving, it’s not quite at the level of Championship contending teams yet.

If Toyota really wanted to keep Hamlin, then Hamlin could move to Legacy Motor Club, but that team has had a disastrous 2023. It is also an option to race for his own team, 23XI, but, then they would have to buy another charter. There are a lot of teams who could be up for buying a charter.

In the Chevy camp, Hamlin’s options were likely either Spire Motorsports or Kaulig Racing. Both are up-and-coming race teams, but they are not serious Championship contenders.

If Hamlin wants to win a Cup Series Championship, then his best move purely as a driver was to stay at JGR. However, there are other factors at play, particularly with his race team, 23XI Racing.

Was This the Right Move for 23XI Racing?

Hamlin has been very clear throughout this entire process that he is looking at the long-term for 23XI Racing. There are some legitimate questions to be asked about whether or not 23XI Racing sticking with the JGR alliance is a good idea long-term. At some point, 23XI Racing is going to have to step out completely on its own.

However, is now the best time to do that? This is only 23XI Racing’s third season as a race team, and, it is a big ask to step out completely on their own with no technical alliance with another race team. Sure, they have improved as a race team as they now have both cars in the Playoffs for the first time in their history, but it is not out of the question for new teams to maintain an alliance with a bigger team.

Stewart-Haas Racing was partnered with Hendrick Motorsports right after Stewart bought the team. During that time, Stewart won his third Cup Series Championship in 2011.

At some point, 23XI Racing will have to step out because it will allow them to stand on their own instead of relying on another race team. JGR will always prioritize their own race team before 23XI, but, for now, the alliance is working. Why stop now?

Conclusion

This move makes the most sense for Denny Hamlin. It keeps him in a Championship-winning car as a driver while also giving his race team some stability. If he were to move on, it would mean big changes for 23XI Racing that the organization might not be ready for, and it would make Hamlin’s run at a Cup Series Championship more difficult based on who he is driving for. This was the best move for Hamlin, and everything worked out.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts