The driver of the #11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs racing made his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series back in 2005, and has been in the series full time since 2006.
With 47 wins under his belt and top ten finishes in over half of his Cup Series starts, Hamlin is consistently in the conversation for the best driver who’s never won a championship (at least not yet).
But how many more chances will he have? Hamlin’s already won a race this year and locked himself into the playoffs to compete for the championship this year, but at 41 years old he’s the third oldest full time driver left in the Cup Series.
So how many years does Hamlin have left as a full-time driver?
That’s exactly the question that Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked Hamlin this week on his podcast, The Dale Jr. Download.
Junior pointed out that Cup Series drivers usually retire around Denny’s age, and that “statistically” he’s only got about 2 more years left of his prime. And although Denny says he’s not ready to put a timeline on when he steps out of the seat, he knows how he wants to go out:
“I’ve definitely thought about it. I talked with my crew chief yesterday about this and I said ‘I’m going to win my last start.’ And hopefully it’s meaningful. Hopefully it’s a meaningful start…
I just don’t want the performance to decline to where I don’t think I can win every week.”
But even when he does retire, Denny won’t be stepping away from the sport. He’s still the co-owner of 23XI Racing along with Michael Jordan, which currently fields cars for Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch.
So would Denny want to drive for his own team before he retires?
He would – but he doesn’t want to.
Denny’s one of the rare drivers these days who has raced for the same team for his entire Cup Series career. And not only that, but he’s had the same sponsor with FedEx the whole time too. And he wants to keep it that way.
When asked by Dale Jr. whether he would leave Joe Gibbs racing and end his career driving for his own team, Denny said that he would rather retire from the team he’s been with his whole career – under one condition: He wants to keep FedEx on board.
“I think that I would like to retire at Gibbs with FedEx, because it’s so unique to have a sponsor that has been a part of the sport as long as they have and backed me as long as they. There’s just no way I could leave them…
I would like to retire at Gibbs with FedEx.”
But Denny also acknowledged that some things are out of his control:
“If things change then things change and then you’ve got to reevaluate.”
Denny’s been quite the polarizing figure in NASCAR, and has his share of both fans and haters. But in recent years he’s become one of the most outspoken drivers in the garage area too (like just this past week when he said that Ryan Blaney should have been black flagged after the window net debacle at the All-Star Race).
I’m sure he’d like to win a championship before he retires – although there are some Hall of Fame drivers like Mark Martin who never won a championship.
But Denny isn’t ready to hang it up just yet. And if FedEx sticks with him, he won’t be driving for his own team either.
And even though I’m not really a Denny Hamlin fan, his Joey Logano impression is still an all-time classic.