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How Denny Hamlin Became NASCAR’s Greatest Villain

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No NASCAR driver has undergone quite the character change that Denny Hamlin has. Formerly a bright-eyed rookie who burst onto the scene, he’s turned into a grizzly veteran with that same incredible talent, with a side of unmistakable villainy. How did Denny Hamlin become NASCAR’s greatest villain?

  • Denny Hamlin burst onto the scene. He made the Chase in his rookie year, and he continued to impress early in his career. As his early career went on, he was largely neutral amongst the fanbase, even during a tough Championship loss in 2010.
  • Hamlin’s reputation was tainted by his actions in 2017. He wrecked NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, and he didn’t even win the ensuing race. This played into Hamlin’s heartbreaking loss in 2017.
  • Hamlin slowly began turning the fanbase against him, and everything came to a head at Martinsville in 2021. A run-in with Alex Bowman at Martinsville and another choke in the Championship race caused Hamlin to further draw the ire of the fanbase.
  • Hamlin continued to play into the villain role throughout the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Run-ins with drivers like Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson along with hypocritical comments continued to turn the fanbase against him. Hamlin embraced the role, and he plays into it very well.

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