The time came where Denny Hamlin had to do some self-reflection on his NASCAR career.
For years, Hamlin has been one of the sport’s most consistent racers. Much like how Aaron Judge and the Yankees are always bets to finish with a winning record, Hamlin is consistently a lock to finish high in the Cup Series standings.
That wasn’t always the case, however. During some of those struggles earlier in his career, Hamlin realized he needed to revisit what worked for him as a young driver.
Denny Hamlin’s NASCAR resume speaks for itself
Denny Hamlin is still riding — or racing, in his case — high at this point in his career.
23XI Racing begins its first racing campaign in 2021. Bubba Wallace will race in the No. 23 car.
The expectations remain high for what Hamlin will do in 2021. According to NASCAR’s official website, Hamlin opened at 8-1 odds to win the 2021 Cup Series.
Hamlin joined six other drivers, including reigning champion Chase Elliott, with 8/1 and +500 odds.
Hamlin went through a rough patch at one point
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Denny Hamlin recorded a top-10 finish in the Cup Series standings 11 times in the last 13 years.
However, it is worth noting that Hamlin lacked such consistency earlier in his career. Hamlin finished third in the Cup Series standings in 2006, then dropped to 12th a year later.
Although he bounced back and climbed to eighth and fifth over the next two years, neither fit into where Hamlin wanted to finish.
Denny Hamlin credited his success to having fun racing
When the 2010 NASCAR season arrived, Denny Hamlin had finished no higher than fifth in the three seasons since placing third in 2006.
Hamlin openly asked himself how things had changed so drastically and so quickly. In a 2016 interview with USA Today, Hamlin admitted that he eventually realized how he had been holding himself back from succeeding.
“I think the reason I was successful in my rookie season is because I was having a lot of fun. As I got older, I took racing more and more seriously. I remember going into Homestead with a chance to win in my rookie season, and I don’t even remember being stressed. I was just having fun. But in 2010, I was ultra-stressed and I blocked everyone out. So just being able to have fun and forget all the stress and expectations, that’s what led to the success.”
Hamlin placed second in 2010, his highest-career finish. Since then, he has only finished outside of the top-10 twice; and one of those years, 2013, came when he missed time with a back injury.
Hamlin placed fourth in both the 2019 and 2020 seasons.