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Denny Hamlin: 2018 NASCAR Season Driver Preview

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin thought his team was strong enough to win the championship last season, and he makes no effort to hide his feelings. “We bettered our average finish, better than I’ve ever had in my career,” Hamlin says. “We tied my highest levels of top 5s and top 10s in my career.”


He’s right: Hamlin delivered a two-win season with an 11.6 average finish that included 15 top-5 and 22 top-10 finishes. But those stats hardly tell the full story of Hamlin’s latest championship heartbreak. Now entering his 13th full-time Cup Series season — all with the same team and the same primary sponsor — Hamlin got as far as leading the penultimate playoff race at Phoenix before it all fell apart.


In many ways, Hamlin’s undoing was something of a karmic reckoning. Late in the rough-and-tumble opener of the third playoff round at Martinsville Speedway, Hamlin wrecked Chase Elliott from the lead. The move sent Elliott into win-or-bust mode to advance in the playoffs, and of course left the Georgia driver plenty peeved. Elliott delivered payback at Phoenix by running Hamlin hard late in the race and eventually bumping the No. 11 into the Turn 4 wall. Hamlin later crashed, handing the fourth and final title race playoff spot at Homestead-Miami Speedway to Brad Keselowski. 

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Hamlin said after the season that he had moved on — maturity and family time during the offseason played contributing roles, he said — but that he’ll always lament the opportunity missed. 

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