White Hot: Hamlin's Hot Streak Could Just Be Starting

Denny Hamlin predicted in April he and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team would get 'white hot' and that seems to be the case heading into the summer months.


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On the April 11 edition of DirtyMo Media’s “Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin” podcast, host Denny Hamlin predicted his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team would get “white hot” over the following weeks and put themselves in a position to become a favorite in the NASCAR Cup Series heading into the summer months.

Following a 20th-place finish at Richmond Raceway and a 22nd-place finish at the Bristol Dirt Race, Hamlin predicted he and the team would go on a run starting the following weekend at Martinsville based on history and how the team was coming together despite their adversity.

The Chesterfield, Virginia, native, was certainly onto something, as he backed it up with a fourth-place finish at Martinsville, a pole at Talladega Superspeedway, a fifth-place finish at Dover Motor Speedway, and Sunday’s dramatic win at Kansas Speedway over Kyle Larson.

Talking with the media following his first victory of the 2023 season, Hamlin backed up his claims from nearly one month earlier.

“You can get white hot. It’s official,” he said.

Hamlin led a total of 34 laps in Sunday’s win over Larson, but the majority of those came in the first half of the race and he only took command of the field on the final lap after contact with Larson’s left rear. Still, the performance showed the No. 11 team is making gains, learning from their mistakes and executing when it matters most.

Prior to getting ‘white hot’ Hamlin and the team struggled primarily on pit road, with slow pit stops and penalties that hindered good days on the racetrack. The veteran driver was vocal about his concerns but remained committed to the team and had the faith they would turn things around, something that stuck with crew chief Chris Gabehart.

“Every Monday in the meetings he’s telling everybody in our meetings he’s had a car capable of winning,” Gabehart after Sunday’s victory. “We know that’s what we’re capable of as the 11 car and really have been all along. We’ve just not been able to have the clean races when we have cars capable of competing for wins.”

“I’m just so proud of Denny to work over what in my view is really the most talented race car driver in the world. I won’t shy away from that. I’ve said it. I said it on the radio. I’ll say it for you guys; you can print it. I think pound for pound, the type of racing, how far he spans, all the things that he wins in, Kyle Larson is the most talented race car driver in the world.”

At the end of the day, though, Hamlin topped Larson and took home the checkered flag and trophy back to Joe Gibbs Racing.

The victory was also a milestone win for Hamlin, tying him with former JGR teammate and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Tony Stewart for 15th on the all-time wins list with 49 victories, something that was not lost on Hamlin.

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It’s big. Certainly that’s why I want to get at least 11 more (wins), is that it just puts you up there with some of the really, really big names of the sport. But again, being matched with Tony is unbelievable. I don’t know what to say ... I certainly didn’t think I’d ever have won, much less that many.”

Denny Hamlin

Eleven more wins would put Hamlin 10th on the all-time win list and tied with Kevin Harvick. If he is able, he would surpass NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Lee Petty and Rusty Wallace.

Sunday’s victory at Kansas also marked the 400th win for JGR, something team owner Joe Gibbs called a “thrill.”

“When we started in racing, our very first year in '91, we had 17 people and raced one car. We just kept building and building and building. I didn't dream that it would be anything like where we are today,” said Gibbs. “I'm just thrilled for all of our people that helped build our race team.”


Hamlin’s hot streak could keep going and show no signs of slowing as the season races through the month of May, which would mean moving closer to that 60-win mark he has circled and adding to JGR’s storied history in the sport.

This weekend the series heads to Darlington Raceway for the annual 400-mile throwback event at the track ‘Too Tough to Tame.”

The Lady in Black has been kind to Hamlin, who leads all active drivers with four wins there, has yet to record a DNF in 21 starts, has the best average finish (7.476) among all drivers, has the highest driver rating among active drivers (108.1), the highest average running position (7.481), the most laps in the top 15 (6,616 or 90.2 percent), and the most quality passes (777), according to NASCAR statistics.

Hamlin is also locked into the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on Sunday, May 21. While there are a host of unknowns heading into the race, Hamlin is a former winner of the NASCAR All-Star Race in 2015.

The following week, the series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the annual Coca-Cola 600. Hamlin is the defending race winner, taking the victory from the pole and leading 15. He has a total of 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes in 31 career starts at the 1.5-mile speedway.

“I’m really excited about this stretch of the schedule, which is why I said four weeks ago we’re going to get white hot,” Hamlin said on the May 8 edition of his podcast. “I knew this would be a good part of the season for us, and it’s going to get hotter.

“People made a big deal about Tony Stewart back in the day in the summer months, ‘This is where Tony is going to get hot,’ ‘It’s Tony’s time.’ I feel like for whatever reason, the hotter the racetrack the better off I am and the more my driving style fits these tracks,” he said. “That’s why I’m really looking forward to this stretch of Darlington, Charlotte, Gateway - I’m super pumped for it.”

While Hamlin predicted in April his team would become white hot, perhaps he is just getting started turning the temperature up on the competition as the season heads into the summer stretch.

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)


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