Bad Boy Denny Hamlin Shows How It’s Done, Adding To His Legacy At Bristol

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Express Oil Change Toyota.

Getty Images Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Express Oil Change Toyota.

Denny Hamlin made it look old school at Bristol, as the cagey veteran outraced JGR teammate Martin Truex, Jr., while schooling Ty Gibbs to win the Food City 500. The victory marks 52 wins for Hamlin, putting him 13th on the all-time NASCAR wins list. More than just another win, however, Hamlin is showing the future stars of NASCAR how to build a racing legacy — and an empire.

Hamlin isn’t everyone’s favorite driver, and cultivates his polarizing ‘bad boy’ image. But the numbers do not lie. Denny Hamlin is one of the best to ever race in NASCAR. Except, he’s more than racing. Hamlin works closely with NASCAR, is establishing his own media ecosystem, shrewdly gets himself in front of Netflix cameras, and is actively building the 23XI Racing team. All while taking care of himself enough to win on just about any track — two decades into his career.

The Denny Hamlin Empire Starts On Track

Taking his second in a row at Bristol, Hamlin was quick to credit the car and his team. He also credited his early years. “That’s what I grew up here doing. Here on the short tracks.” It was no exaggeration. Hamlin won at Bristol, again, while leading for 163 laps. But as much as Hamlin acknowledged his experience with short tracks, the fact is, he wins just about whatever track he races on.

Hamlin is the racer so many race fans love to hate — or hate to love — but that’s in large part because he wins so often and under so many conditions, and for so long. In twenty seasons in NASCAR, there’s been only two years when Hamlin didn’t win — his first, 2005, where he had only seven starts, and in 2018. Though he still made the playoffs. Hamlin is also making a racing empire.

Denny Hamlin and the Future of NASCAR

It’s hard to overstate Denny Hamlin’s influence on NASCAR currently, and it seems certain he will continue to have a major impact on the sport in the future. The only drivers with more wins than Hamlin that are still racing are Kyle Busch and technically, Jimmie Johnson.

But it’s Hamlin who’s not only winning races, still, he’s made himself an integral part of NASCAR when his racing days are finally over. Consider that Hamlin is one of NASCAR’s richest drivers and is using his wealth to actively invest in the sport’s future. As Heavy previously documented, “Denny Hamlin is a unique figure in NASCAR. He is listed as one of NASCAR’s Greatest Drivers, while still driving. Plus, while he races for Joe Gibbs Racing he simultaneously co-owns a team, 23XI Racing, that runs two other drivers, Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Hamlin is a minority owner, but running a team in NASCAR is not cheap. In 2021, 23XI paid $13.5 million for the charter that previously belonged to StarCom Racing. In 2020, the team shelled out $4 million for the Germain Racing charter.”

Hamlin  understands where the money in NASCAR comes from and how it’s made. He’s been associated with Joe Gibbs Racing for about twenty years. And as team co-owner, with Michael Jordan, Hamlin is closely involved with NASCAR’s business negotiations and with the media. Also from Heavy: “As a minority co-owner of 23XI, Hamlin can benefit from the increasing popularity — and new television money — that NASCAR and its charter members receive. He can additionally build new revenue streams that enable him to leverage both his ownership and his role as a driver to extend his value across merchandising, media, and sponsorships.”

23XL Racing employs over 80 and recently completed its own racing facility. Love him or hate him, Denny Hamlin is going to be with NASCAR for a lot longer.

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