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Srigley Stats: Is 2024 Finally The Year for Denny Hamlin?

After Dover, #SrigleyStats asks if 2024 is the year for Denny Hamlin, plus statistical insight on Kaulig Racing, Noah Gragson, and Carson Kvapil's impressive Xfinity stint.


hero image for Srigley Stats: Is 2024 Finally The Year for Denny Hamlin?

As the band Cage the Elephant famously says: “There ain’t no rest for the wicked.”

Every single year, without fail, the question of whether this is finally the season that Denny Hamlin breaks through to earn his first NASCAR Cup Series championship is asked, with the age-old conversation always ramping up after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver goes on a hot streak.

It may be a cliché, but a third victory in the first 11 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series events warrants the question to be asked again: Is 2024 finally the year for Denny Hamlin?

Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Dover Motor Speedway marked a series-high third victory for Denny Hamlin this season, matching Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron. All three of those victories, plus his win in the pre-season exhibition event in Los Angeles, have come on tracks one mile in length or shorter.

The victory was the 54th of Hamlin’s career at NASCAR’s top level, which ties him for 12th-place on the all-time win list with Lee Petty. As the wins, top-fives, and top-10 finishes continue to click off, the Chesterfield, Virginia native is without a doubt a first-ballot Hall of Famer, who still has time for his driving career to come to its natural conclusion.

So, as Hamlin runs his 19th full-time campaign in the NASCAR Cup Series, the absence of a championship trophy continues to hang over his head, but at the end of the day, the 43-year-old driver knows that he’s capable of winning a title at NASCAR’s highest level.

“Listen, I know that I’m a championship-caliber driver. I’ll just say it. I think there’s been worse drivers win a championship than me. I just feel that way just because of things that have worked out,” Hamlin said after his win Sunday at Dover. “It’s different. Find one driver saying that championships are the same as they were 10 years ago, it’s just not. I care about wins and winning every single week because in the end I absolutely would take 60-some wins and no championship over 20 and one. It’s just not even close.”

But, why 2024? Simply put, things just feel different…

Hamlin has been credited with leading laps in each of the first 11 NASCAR Cup Series events of the season, something that hasn’t been done in the series since 2001 when Mark Martin led at least one lap in the first 13 races.

Having been out front for 535 laps this season - second behind only NASCAR Cup Series points leader Kyle Larson - the 54-time winner has been a clear threat for the victory every week.

It’s a level of consistency that isn’t often seen in the highest ranks of motorsports (except for Formula One) and although the finishes aren’t always indicative of that race-winning pace, it gives the Joe Gibbs Racing team something to continue to work towards, on its journey to become a dominant force.

Barring some major changes in performance throughout the NASCAR Cup Series field, it looks like this season is one of Hamlin's best shots at finally getting that monkey off of his back, and hoisting the championship trophy in Phoenix.

Photo: James Gilbert, Getty Images


Following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Würth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway, it appears that Miles the Monster has made some brand-new friends.

With a ninth-place result by Daniel Hemric and the No. 31 Chevrolet Camaro team, and a 13th-place from NASCAR Xfinity Series regular AJ Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing placed a pair of entries inside the top-15 outside of a drafting track for the first time since the 2023 Coca-Cola 600 last May.

Hemric was the beneficiary of a well-timed caution during the final cycle of pit stops, placing the No. 31 Chevrolet Camaro inside the top-10 with less than 100 laps remaining in the 400-lap contest. The Kannapolis, North Carolina native held onto the spot with everything he had, earning back-to-back top-10 results for the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career.

AJ Allmendinger managed to record another top-15 in Sunday’s race at Dover, his third in four NASCAR Cup Series starts this year. The Los Gatos, California native’s 10th-place starting spot was the best for the organization since Charlotte’s ROVAL last October, and the best on an oval since last Fall at Texas.

The No. 16 Action Industries Chevrolet was a mainstay in the top half of the field throughout Sunday’s event, running 385 of the race’s 400 laps (96.3% of the race) inside the top-15, the most for Kaulig Racing this season by a significant margin.

Over the last three weeks, things have been trending in a positive direction for Kaulig Racing, the highlight of which is back-to-back top-10s for Daniel Hemric, something the team hasn’t done with a single driver since the middle of last season at Chicago and Atlanta.

Throw in a double top-20 at Texas, both Daniel Hemric and Shane Van Gisbergen leading laps at Talladega, and now a double top-15 showing at Dover Motor Speedway, and it appears the two-car operation may be headed on the right path.

Photo Credit: Tim Parks, HHP for Chevy Racing


It’s been a year of rebuilding for Stewart-Haas Racing, with the addition of drivers Josh Berry and Noah Gragson to the team’s four-car roster in the NASCAR Cup Series. And, while Rome wasn’t built in a day, there is some serious progress being made inside the walls of the operation co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas.

Noah Gragson was the Stewart-Haas superstar in Sunday’s Würth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway, bringing home a sixth-place result in the No. 10 Miller Tech Ford Mustang Dark Horse, matching the season-high result for the driver on non-drafting tracks (Las Vegas).

It’s the fourth finish inside the top-10 for the Las Vegas, Nevada-born driver, continuing to widen the gap on a career-best season in nearly every statistical category. With Sunday’s finish, Gragson now matches teammate Chase Briscoe as the leader of the Stewart-Haas foursome when it comes to top-10s.

A wonderful points day for Gragson means the 25-year-old driver has been catapulted up the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, jumping six spots to land 21st, albeit a somewhat staggering 80 points below the post-season cutline.

The first season as a pilot for Stewart-Haas Racing has been a solid one for Gragson, who has spent 1,263 laps running inside the top-15 – ranked 19th-place of the 51 drivers to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series this season. In that metric, Gragson is quickly approaching his total number of laps run inside the top-15 from his last two seasons combined.

Now, after a career-best third-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway, and a solid sixth-place run at Dover Motor Speedway – the first time the driver has earned back-to-back top-10s in the Cup Series - Gragson and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer are on the right track, as they attempt to join teammate Chase Briscoe in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

They’ll have some ground to make up, feeling the lingering effects of a 35-point penalty assessed earlier in the year. At 80 points below, with 15 races left in the regular season, the driver of the No. 10 will have to gain at least six points per week on a potentially moving cutline to achieve a post-season berth.

But, should Gragson’s current level of performance continue, the No. 10 shouldn’t have any issues making an appearance in the post-season battle within the next couple of months.

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, NKP for Ford Performance


At times, the NASCAR Xfinity Series can be brutal. The competitive nature of the series can make it difficult for even the most talented drivers to find their bearings and consistently put together performances of a race-winning caliber.

That’s what makes the instant success of Carson Kvapil such an incredible thing. With a fourth-place run on debut at Martinsville earlier this month, the CARS Tour LMSC Champion got the call from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet at Dover Motor Speedway, and he did not disappoint.

Qualifying was a bit of a struggle for Kvapil, who started Saturday’s 200-miler from outside the top 25, but the 20-year-old driver slowly worked through the pack to put himself in position to contend for the victory late in the race.

As the strategy, presence of rain, and typical aggressive nature of the Xfinity Series unfolded, Kvapil maintained his composure and found himself making a bold three-wide pass for the lead on the frontstretch with seven laps remaining.

The son of 2003 NASCAR Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil managed to lead 14 circuits around the one-mile concrete oval but lost the lead – and thus the win – in a second NASCAR Overtime restart, with Ryan Truex managing to drive underneath him to slide through to his second career victory.

Finishing in second place, Kvapil became just the 11th different driver in the history of the NASCAR Xfinity Series to finish inside the top five in each of their first two starts, the latest of which was Ty Gibbs in 2021.

With just a pair of starts under his belt in 2024, Kvapil has managed to surpass or match three of the four full-time drivers at JR Motorsports when it comes to the number of top-five results this season, with Sam Mayer the only driver having more (three).

It’s undoubtedly brought attention to the Mooresville, North Carolina native, who now, doesn’t appear to have any additional starts confirmed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year, with his sights set once again on claiming the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car championship.

As of late, the part-time fifth entry for JR Motorsports has been fruitful, with Carson Kvapil and Bubba Pollard combining for no finish worse than sixth in three starts this year. Last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway, team co-owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also recorded a top-five result in the No. 88 Chevrolet.

Earnhardt will return to the No. 88 later this year at Bristol, while Connor Zilisch will debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on a four-race schedule. And, who knows, with the runs he's having, maybe we'll see Carson Kvapil again this year.

Photo Credit: Jonathan McCoy, Overbey Photography

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