That’s how many points ahead in the standings Denny Hamlin is so far into this season. He’s currently averaging a finish of 4.2 on the season and in nine starts has only finished outside of the top five once. The man has been the pinnacle of consistency and is on track for his best statistical season ever.
Best statistically except for the one place it actually matters, wins. If we were still in Winston Cup, we’d be going ahead and getting his name etched in the trophy, but this isn’t the old days. Wins are worth more than anything and if you go an entire season without winning, the chances of you winning the Cup are slim to none.
Denny Hamlin is possibly one of the best drivers on the track every Sunday, but he is still searching for his first championship. He has won in every single season of his career except for one, but yet he has developed this persona among fans that he’s not clutch. The true irony is that he’s became close business partners with possibly the most clutch athlete in all of sports.
Year after year Hamlin’s chances at a coveted championship dwindle further and further. Despite him being in his prime, the competition is only getting stiffer with the young generation beginning to take championship caliber form.
Last season was his best statistical season, and he was the favorite heading into the championship race, but he was still unable to get the job done. You look at Denny’s career overall and you think that those clutch detractors are haters because how could you say a guy whose won 44 races in his career isn’t clutch?
Well, it’s seasons like this one that lend a lot of evidence to it. We have had three straight races that Hamlin had a chance to win but it was taken from him in the closing laps. In Bristol he had the opportunity to push Logano out of the way and he didn’t. At Martinsville he couldn’t keep Martin Truex Jr. behind him and the same happened this weekend at Richmond with Bowman.
I don’t believe Hamlin should be faulted for any of these. At the end of the day he’s had a great year even without a win. Who knows if another driver in the same position and car would’ve been able to pull of the win, but it doesn’t take away from the narrative.
Nince races into the season and he’d probably be considered the favorite right now, but is it time to panic? It sounds odd considering his record, but he’s coming off a season where he (and his team) virtually choked in the championship race, is it a bad sign that he’s already letting multiple races slip through his fingers?
It’s way too early to really be talking about the championship hunt, but there is something about Denny this season that’s concerning to me. This season his driving style seems different, his aggression levels are vastly lessened then prior years. This is a guy who wrecked Chase Elliott at Martinsville for a chance to win – in a race he allowed someone else to win after that incident – and this year he won’t bump Logano for a chance to win on dirt.
Even his aggression in non-physical contact racing isn’t the same. It could be theorized that Hamlin is attempting to take on a new clean driving style , but if that is the case it doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe he thinks he’ll be cut some slack later on in the season, and maybe that will be the case. However, it seems to be doing nothing but making passing him look really easy so far.
If you’re a Hamlin fan there is still plenty of hope, but he’s got along way to go before the clutch issue is done away with.