NASCAR: Is Denny Hamlin a lock for the Hall of Fame?

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Denny Hamlin began the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season by scoring his third Daytona 500 win, but is that enough to lock him into the NASCAR Hall of Fame?

The start of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season marked Denny Hamlin’s third career Daytona 500 victory. This followed arguably the best year of his career in 2019, when he scored six wins, 19 top five finishes, 24 top 10 finishes and a fourth place finish in the championship standings.

The 2019 season put Hamlin back in the talk for the best driver to never win a Cup Series championship. Junior Johnson has the most career wins without a championship with 50. Hamlin ranks third behind Johnson and Mark Martin (40) with 38. But is he a lock for the NASCAR Hall of Fame?

People tend to discredit Hamlin because he has not won a championship in NASCAR at all. He only ran one full-time season in the Xfinity Series in 2005 before moving to the Cup Series full-time in 2006.

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Hamlin recently posted a video on his Instagram showing off his first career winning car from the 2006 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. In this video, he mentioned that he felt like he was rushed up into the Cup Series at the time. But he went on to sweep the races at Pocono Raceway that year and finished in third place in the championship standings as a rookie.

Right now, it is hard not to think of Denny Hamlin as a future NASCAR Hall of Famer. In 510 starts, Hamlin has recorded 38 wins, 162 top five finishes, 261 top 10 finishes, 33 pole positions and 10,224 laps led.

Compared to Martin’s statistics, Hamlin’s are projected to be better, and Martin is a first ballot Hall of Famer from 2017.  Hamlin has just two fewer wins in 372 fewer starts. He has won 7.45% of the Cup Series races in which he has competed. Martin’s winning percentage was 4.54%.

If Hamlin were to race in 882 races like Martin and continue at that same winning rate, he would win 66 races.

If that isn’t enough to prove that Hamlin is a NASCAR Hall of Famer, then turn to his three Daytona 500 victories. These wins includes back to back wins in 2019 and 2020.

He became only the fifth driver to ever score back to back Daytona 500 victories, and the only other drivers who have three or more Daytona 500 victories are Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon, who are all in the Hall of Fame already.

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Denny Hamlin has mentioned that he has no aspirations to stop racing, so he will likely continue competing for years to come. That means he should have additional time to accomplish more in the NASCAR Cup Series and secure that one championship that would put his career over the top.