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Denny Hamlin Wants Drivers, Teams to Have a Seat at the Table in NASCAR Decisions

On Wednesday during Daytona 500 Media Day, Denny Hamlin expressed that he would like for the teams and drivers to have a larger seat at the table when there are decisions to be made on the direction of the sport. Hamlin also talked about what changes he'd like to make to the Playoff format.


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As a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and co-owner of the 23XI Racing NASCAR Cup Series team, Denny Hamlin's voice carries a lot of weight within the NASCAR Cup Series garage. And as the driver/owner has shown in the past, he isn't afraid to let his opinions be known.

At Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday, Hamlin accused the sanctioning body of monopolizing the direction of the sport.

The 51-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner says the teams should have more pull than they do, and the drivers should, at the very least, have a seat at the table as well. Hamlin says, as things are presently laid out, the drivers are just along for the ride.

“I think I overestimated how much the RTA (Race Team Alliance) has a seat at the table now that I’m a part of it," Hamlin admitted. "I think that this whole thing is such a monopoly that you kind of get shut down in different areas – you're allowed in some places, but not in others, that it’s very different.

"I do think the drivers are in a better place now [than a few years ago] in the sense that they have an unofficial association. Again, it’s only a seat at the table if you’re allowed to be. It's not an official seat at the table."

Hamlin cited the ongoing negotiations between the Race Team Alliance and NASCAR regarding the future of the Charter agreement and how the 2025 NASCAR broadcasting rights money will be divvied up as potentially one of the reasons that NASCAR has been hesitant to hand out another seat at the decision-making table within the sport.

"Saying that the race teams and their agreement with NASCAR is why there are butting heads there," Hamlin explained. "So, there’s only a seat if you’re allowed a seat and they’re only going to allow a seat in a few certain situations, but I do think there’s avenues to the divers being more equitable in the sport in the future.”

How the negotiations between the RTA and NASCAR ultimately play out could determine what, if any, voice the drivers have within the decision-making side of the sport in the future. Regardless, it feels strange that one of the largest stakeholders in the sport -- the drivers -- has no real say in what happens within the sport in which they compete.

Hamlin also addressed the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff format. Hamlin has been vocal in the past on the matter saying that he doesn't feel that the NASCAR Cup Series championship should come down to a winner-take-all last race for the title.

On Wednesday, Hamlin dove in a little deeper on his thoughts about whether a driver's performance over an entire season should outweigh a great performance in the final race of the season.

“It would be hard to argue the latter is correct," Hamlin added. "I would say that I do like the Playoffs. I really thought when they first implemented it you had 10 drivers over 10 weeks. Like it was the 10 best and in order to be the 10 best it was a really super elite group. Then, you’d let those guys figure it out for the next 10 weeks. Every race had such big importance. Now, there’s a win and you’re in. You can win and just go to the next round. It doesn’t matter about the performances in the Playoffs. It’s just different now. I do like the Playoffs, I just wish, if I had to change it, I think there should be a championship round. Not tie it down to one race where it could fit a potential manufacturer, driver or team. Make them work at some different types of race tracks to crown a championship."

Hamlin feels by extending the championship-deciding round to three races, NASCAR would see elevated television ratings for more than just the final race of the year.

"In my opinion, I think it could be a bump in the rating as well because you have three championship races, and they all mean the same amount," Hamlin said. "No one is going to run off and win the championship between three guys after two races. You’re still going to have that element, but it’s probably a little bit more of a fair way to do it.”

The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season will once again feature the same Playoff format that the series has utilized since the 2014 season. 16 drivers make it into the championship battle, and four drivers are eliminated from championship contention in each three-race round of the Playoffs. The final race of the year features a winner-take-all championship race, which pits the four drivers remaining in the Championship hunt against each other.

Photo Credit: Craig White, TobyChristie.com

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