At Phoenix Raceway, Hamlin, who was born in Tampa, is one of four drivers vying for the Cup Series championship.
Denny Hamlin of NASCAR has a chance to bring Champa Bay yet another championship.
In Sunday’s 312-lap championship race at Phoenix Raceway, Hamlin is one of four drivers competing for the Cup Series title. His parents met and he was born in Tampa, however he grew up in Virginia and now lives in North Carolina.
That would be enough for him to join the Buccaneers (Super Bowl 55), Lightning (back-to-back Stanley Cups), Rays (back-to-back AL East titles), and Rowdies as recent Tampa Bay champions (who won the Eastern Conference last year).
More importantly for Hamlin, winning a championship with his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota would complete one of the few gaps on his Hall of Fame resume. Only six drivers have won three Daytona 500s, and the 40-year-old is one of them. He is tied for 17th all-time with Buck Baker with 46 career victories, two more than Bill Elliott and three less than Tony Stewart. The only active drivers with more race victories are Kyle Busch (59) and Kevin Harvick (58).
The one thing that sets Hamlin apart from the others is that he has yet to win a series championship.
“He’s had a chance,” team owner Joe Gibbs said, “but hasn’t won it.”
In 2010, Hamlin came in second. Hamlin has been a finalist in the current playoff system — a one-race confrontation with three other contenders — in 2014, ’19, and ’20, but has never won.
Consider the location if you’re seeking for a reason why his 16th full-time season might conclude differently. Hamlin has two Phoenix victories, more than any of the other finalists. He also has the greatest average finishing position (10.8).
In comparison to fellow candidate Kyle Larson, Hamlin has not dominated this season. Larson won nine races in a row, compared to two for Hamlin. Hamlin, on the other hand, had nearly as many top-five finishes (18) as Larson (19) and advanced to the championship round, where he’ll face teammate Martin Truex Jr. and defending winner Chase Elliott.
After years of successful seasons that ended without a championship, Hamlin could be on the verge of losing his reputation as one of NASCAR’s top drivers without a championship.
“I think he’s at peace with it,” Gibbs told reporters Tuesday. “But also, you just know he has a burning desire and is going to give it everything he’s got on Sunday.”
And if Hamlin can finally win that long-awaited championship, he’ll add to Champa Bay’s collection of championship trophies.
The uniforms of NASCAR racing drivers are currently available at the following websites for a reasonable price: