Denny Hamlin enters Martinsville this weekend down 17 points from the cut-line to get into the Championship 4. Martinsville is one of Hamlin’s best tracks, and this is his last chance to work his way into Championship contention this season. This race is big, but why might it be the biggest race of Denny Hamlin’s career?
Hamlin’s Career Accomplishments
Denny Hamlin has a Hall-of-Fame-caliber resume. He has won 51 races including three Daytona 500s, three Southern 500s, and the 2022 Coca-Cola 600. He’s also won every non-points event he can including the Clash, the All-Star Race, and the Daytona Duels.
Everything that can be done in a NASCAR career, Hamlin has done it. That is, except for winning a Championship. As a matter of fact, he has not won a NASCAR National Touring Series Championship at any level. It is the one thing left for Hamlin to accomplish, and he needs to likely win Martinsville in order to win a Championship with time ticking.
Denny Hamlin is 42 years old, and he will be 43 when the next season comes around. He will be one of the elder statesmen of the sport with teammate Martin Truex Jr. being the only driver older than him. Hamlin recently signed a multi-year extension to stay with Joe Gibbs Racing, so, he will stay in the sport for at least the next couple of years.
However, he is not getting any younger, and this is about the time that some driver’s skills begin to erode. Now, Denny Hamlin keeps himself in good shape, so, he very well could become Mark Martin or Harry Gant and race into his 50s. However, at some point, he will begin to decline.
This may be Hamlin’s best chance at a Championship before his career ends. No one knows if Hamlin will have an opportunity like this one for the rest of his career, and that makes it all the more important to take advantage now.
How Good Hamlin is at Martinsville
Martinsville is one of Denny Hamlin’s best race tracks. He has five career wins there, and he has led more than 100 laps in three of the last five races there. Yes, he has not won there since 2015, but he still runs up front while at Martinsville.
If Hamlin absolutely had to be in this position at 17 points out, then Martinsville is the place he would want to make this deficit up. Hamlin knows that it could be now or never to win a Championship, and he has one of his best race tracks coming up. This is a race Hamlin has to have, and this is the place he has a great opportunity to do it.
Hamlin’s Season so Far
Denny Hamlin looked like a Championship favorite throughout the first half of the Playoffs. He had four straight top-5 finishes and a win at Bristol, but he has followed that up with two finishes outside of the top 30 in the last three races. He also was fighting for the regular season Championship with teammate Martin Truex Jr. at season’s end.
He has speed, and he has been a Championship-level driver at his best throughout the season. If you are a Championship-level driver during a season, you need to take advantage of it. Hamlin has to do so this season, which he has failed to do in previous seasons.
Denny Hamlin has plenty of reasons for why this race is huge for his career. If he fails to get into the Championship 4 with a good race at Martinsville, then who knows what chance he will get over the next couple of years.