What’s Happening?

Denny Hamlin is now one of the elder statesmen of the sport heading into 2024. He is 43 years old, and he has done just about everything a driver can in this sport, except win a Championship. With that in mind, what does Denny Hamlin have to prove in 2024?

  • Denny Hamlin returns to Joe Gibbs Racing on a multi-year deal in the #11 car. He also enters his fourth season as the co-owner of 23XI Racing.
  • Hamlin finished 5th in the series standings in 2023. He narrowly missed out on the Championship 4 after a mechanical failure at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Hamlin embraced the “Villain” role amongst the fans in 2023. His outspoken comments and controversial on-track maneuvers turned a few fans against him.

Can Everything Come Together When It Counts The Most?

Denny Hamlin is notorious for getting oh-so-close, but not quite winning a Championship. Some instances, such as 2010 and 2020, were due to poor performance in big spots, but others were factors completely out of his control. He lost a Championship 4 bid on the “Hail Melon” in 2022, and he missed out thanks to a mechanical failure at Homestead in 2023.

It feels like Hamlin either has good luck or clutch performances, but never both. It takes a big helping of both good luck and clutch performances to win a NASCAR Cup Series Championship, especially in this modern format. The question is, can Hamlin put it all together?

From the outside, fans could look at Hamlin’s overall body of work and say that he is definitely capable. However, when everything is on the line, he hasn’t proven he can do it. He is looking to change that in 2024.

Can He Keep This Performance Up at This Age With All of His Distractions?

There is another wrinkle to throw into Hamlin’s 2024 season, his age, and his ventures outside of driving. We will start by looking at his age.

Hamlin is now 43 years old, and this is about the time when drivers usually start to decline. Jimmie Johnson won his last Cup Series race at age 41. Jeff Gordon was 43 years old when he retired. Kevin Harvick won 9 races at the age of 44 in 2020, but, he quickly declined after that.

An interesting driver to compare Hamlin to is Tony Stewart. Stewart won his third Championship in his third season as an owner-driver in 2011 at age 40. From 2012 onwards, he began to slowly decline. The combination of age, injuries, and striking a balance between being a driver and an owner was becoming difficult for Stewart as time went on.

Stewart’s fourth year as an owner, 2012, was when things started to slip as he finished 9th in the points. Hamlin is entering his fourth season as an owner at age 43.

Hamlin may not be at the end of his most competitive days, but, he is starting to reach that point where drivers usually start to decline. Now, Hamlin performed very well in 2023, so, he seems like he could continue performing well in 2024. However, at some point, the decline will come.

What are your expectations for Denny Hamlin in 2024? Will he finally get that elusive Cup Series Championship?