|Birthdate:||November 18, 1980|
|First Career Cup race:||October 9, 2005 (Kansas)|
|Career Cup Poles:||33|
|Career Cup Wins:||44|
|Best Cup Championship Finish:||2nd – 2010|
During a successful four-race tryout in the Cup series in 2005 in the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin scored two top-10 finishes and two top-10 qualifying efforts and was promoted from within the Joe Gibbs Racing organization to pilot the car full-time.
In 2006, Hamlin had one of the most successful rookie seasons to date in the series. He swept the Cup events at Pocono that season and also posted 20 top-10 finishes. He started the season with a win in the Budweiser Shootout and became the first rookie to make the playoffs. He finished third in the standings en route to winning the year’s rookie of the year honors.
For 2007, Hamlin finished 12th in his third Cup season racing for JGR. He won one race, finished in the top-five 12 times, and had 18 top-10s to conclude the season.
That year in the Xfinity Series, Hamlin posted three victories, five poles, 11 top fives, and 16 top 10s racing 22 of the 35 races to complete the season in 13th place.
Hamlin won a Cup Series race and made the playoffs in 2008, but it was still a frustrating season for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Despite scoring a victory at his home track in Martinsville, Virginia and qualifying for the post-season, Hamlin ended the year ninth in the standings and was never a serious threat to win the championship.
Hamlin experienced some tough blows during the season, including an engine failure in August at Michigan that set off a controversy with the JGR team after some pointed remarks by the driver.
He was also involved in a hard crash at Talladega in October that resulted in an overnight hospital stay.
Hamlin did, however, manage to win four Xfinity races in just 19 starts in 2008.
In 2009, Hamlin posted his best NASCAR Cup Series season since his rookie year in 2006.
He posted four wins, 15 top fives and 1,380 laps led en route to his fifth-place finish in the standings. His last win of the season came in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a track he had yet to win at.
If not for a couple engine failures and a costly mistake at Auto Club Speedway in the playoffs, Hamlin could have found himself in serious contention to give Jimmie Johnson a run at the championship. With the exception of three DNFs, Hamlin recorded an average finish of 5.1 in the remaining seven races.
After seeing finishes of 17th or worse in the first five races of 2010, Hamlin turned his year around with his first victory of the year at Martinsville in the spring. As the season continued, Hamlin proved himself a worthy champion contender with five victories over the course of 10 races heading into the early part of the summer.
He went on to win the last race before the playoffs and plant himself atop the point standings at the start of the for the first time in five consecutive years of making the “playoff” field. With his eight trips to victory lane in 2010, Hamlin doubled his career win total and captured more victories than any other competitor.
Hamlin came up just sort of ousting Jimmie Johnson for the 2010 NASCAR Cup Series championship, as he saw his bid crumble in the last event of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
He recorded his worst finishing position of the 10-race post-season at Homestead when he finished 14th and was unable to protect his 15-point championship lead, instead settling for a bitter runner-up finish after spinning early in the finale and suffering a missed pit stop for tires late in the race.
With hopes of building on that second-place finish in points, Hamlin began the 2011 campaign with a 21st-place finish in Daytona and strong runs at Phoenix and Las Vegas which left him eighth in points.
A victory near mid-year at Michigan International Speedway helped Hamlin lay the foundation for a playoff berth – which he secured as one of two post-season wild cards.
But Hamlin failed to post a top-10 finish in the first month of the post-season, which sent him reeling to the bottom of the title field. He ended the year tied for ninth with Ryan Newman.
In December, Mike Ford was dismissed as Hamlin’s crew chief and replaced by Darian Grubb – who had helped guide Tony Stewart to the 2011 Cup Series championship.
In 2012, Hamlin once again qualified for the playoffs … earning the No. 1 seed with four wins during the regular season. His victory in playoff race No. 2, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, pulled him within seven points of first-place Jimmie Johnson.
But Hamlin had just three top 10s over the last two months of the season and finished the year sixth in the final standings – 71 points behind champion Brad Keselowski.
Hamlin would more than likely just as soon forget the 2013 season … although he closed the year with a victory in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver injured his back in a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway in late March that forced him to miss four races.
Hamlin suffered through a mid-season slump that carried into the fall, during which he finished 12th or worse in 16 consecutive races. Hamlin then rallied with top 10s in four of his final six starts, including the victory in South Florida – extending his string of consecutive years with at least one win to eight.
Hamlin ran that to nine years in a row in 2014, winning the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway which secured his spot in the revamped playoffs. He entered the 10-race title series as the No. 9 seed and survived all three elimination races to compete at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the Championship 4 drivers.
Hamlin finished seventh in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 and was third in the final standings, six points behind champion Kevin Harvick. He totaled 18 top 10s in his 35 starts, missing the race at Auto Club Speedway with what was originally reported as a sinus infection. It later was discovered that Hamlin had a small piece of metal in his eye that affected his vision. Sam Hornish Jr. subbed for him at Fontana and finished 17th in the No. 11 Toyota.
He slipped to ninth in the 2015 playoff standings then rebounded to sixth in 2016 – when he posted three wins and claimed one pole, securing the No. 3 seed for the post-season Chase. He was eliminated from title contention in the semifinal round after a seventh-place finish at Phoenix.
In 2017, Hamlin had two regular-season wins (at New Hampshire and Darlington) to secure the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. He also won two poles en route to a sixth-place finish in the final standings.
Hamlin ended his streak of NASCAR Cup Series seasons with at least one win at 12 after he was shut out of Victory Lane in 2018.
Hamlin, who recorded 10 top fives and 17 top 10s and made the playoffs for the 12th time, came close to extending his win streak during the year, most notably in two of the biggest races – the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. He did post three top fives in the final seven races, including two second-place finishes at Dover and Martinsville. He also scored his fourth pole of year in the season finale at Homestead-Miami, which marked his final race with crew chief Mike Wheeler.
In 2019, Hamlin had a career year in a number of statistical categories on his way to finishing fourth in the Cup Series standings. Hamlin posted career numbers in top fives (19), top 10s (24) and average finish (9.5) in his first season with crew chief Chris Gabehart. Although he came up two wins shy of equaling his career season high mark of eight in 2010, Hamlin captured a number of big wins this season. Among them included his second career wins in both the Daytona 500 and Bristol night race along with a clutch win at ISM Raceway in the fall that advanced him to the Championship 4.