The outspoken NASCAR Cup Series driver isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers, especially now that he has an even bigger platform with his podcast Actions Detrimental on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Dirty Mo Media network.
After winning at Bristol earlier this month, Hamlin was met by a chorus of boos from the stands – and someone even threw a cucumber at him as he celebrated at the finish line.
But Hamlin didn’t seem to mind, even taunting the fans who were booing him in his postrace interview:
Of course, Hamlin is not only the driver of the #11 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, but also the co-owner of 23XI Racing alongside NBA legend Michael Jordan, which fields the #23 car for Bubba Wallace and the #45 of Tyler Reddick. So it’s easy to see why Hamlin has a large platform in the sport.
But Jeff Gordon isn’t exactly a fan of how Hamlin uses that platform.
The former driver, who now serves as the Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, discussed Hamlin and his outspoken antics during a recent interview on SiriusXM:
“Denny is trying to do things to stir up conversation, to get people at least having an opinion. Whether it’s a positive or negative one, you at least have an opinion. And the fact that he’s embracing that, I will give him kudos all day long. Go for it.”
But Gordon apparently doesn’t always approve of Denny’s outspoken personality – and wouldn’t want to deal with that on his own team:
“I wouldn’t want that to be one of our drivers.
It’s too controversial. To me it’s a distraction. I feel like, I want our drivers to go and build a fanbase by winning races and by being themselves.
And I think Denny’s being himself to a certain degree, but I think he’s also kind of, it’s like an alter-ego as well.”
And the four-time Cup Series champion seems to say the quiet part out loud with the next part, when he seems to say that drivers shouldn’t showcase their personality because their job is to appeal to sponsors:
“I want other guys in the sport to do stuff like that. But if they come to Hendrick Motorsports, and you can call us stiff, you can call us whatever you want, but we’re running a business and the business is to win races first. Take care of your sponsors, and let the sponsors market you.
Let the sport figure out how to market you. Build your brand through who you are on social media, and be the best you that you can be, but if you really want to go to the racetrack focused on winning races, it’s hard to do that when you have a lot of distractions.
And if Denny thrives on that, great. But I just don’t think that it’s healthy within the organization when you have four drivers and you’re going in meetings together and you’re talking about how you go to the next race to win when you’re having to deal with some of those things.”
I mean, when you look at the Hendrick lineup, it’s not exactly the most exciting group of drivers. Sure, William Byron, driver of the #24 car for Hendrick, is having an incredible year, having already won 6 races and locked himself into the next round of the playoffs. But I think it’s safe to say that he’s a pretty boring personality off the track.
And the same goes for Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 car. There are moments where Bowman shows his personality, like his feuds with Kyle Busch and (ironically) Denny Hamlin over the past couple of years, where Bowman sold t-shirts mocking their insults towards him. But overall, he’s not going to be winning any popularity contests or really drawing much opinion from fans one way or the other, because he’s generally pretty vanilla.
Even Chase Elliott, NASCAR’s most popular driver, is pretty muted during interviews, aside from the occasional heated jab or angry quote.
When it comes to personality, Kyle Larson is probably the most entertaining of the four Hendrick drivers, but even he generally tries to avoid controversy (especially after his racial slur incident a few years ago).
Obviously it works for Hendrick, which is one of the top teams in the garage week in and week out. But for the sport as a whole, wouldn’t it benefit NASCAR to have more personality and controversy from its drivers?
I guess Jeff Gordon doesn’t think so.
🗣️ “I wouldn’t want that to be one of our drivers. It’s too controversial. To me, it’s a distraction.”
While @JeffGordonWeb respects how Denny Hamlin is building his brand, he doesn’t want any of the @TeamHendrick drivers to do it that way.