mobile app bar

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin was born in Tampa, Florida on November 18, 1980. Getting behind the wheel of go-karts at age 7, Hamlin transitioned to mini-stocks in his teens. At age 17, he won the 1997 Mini Stocks championship with 7 poles and 5 wins. He then moved to second tier Grand Stocks in 1998 and kick started his journey into the higher echelons of racing. Throughout the late 90s and the early 2000s, Hamlin ran riot in the short tracks around Virginia and Carolina in late models. These performances caught the eye of Markham, a former racer who was associated with the competition department at Joe Gibbs Racing.   Though the driver development program at Joe Gibbs Racing was already spaced out with Jason Heffler and J.J. Yeley, the team decided to add one more name to their roster in 2003 and put Markham up to the task of finding them their next star. Holding an audition for several late model drivers at the Hickory Speedway, he invited Hamlin, not to audition but to test and prepare the cars for the event.   Watching Hamlin skillfully burn rubber at the track regardless of his purpose on the day, an impressed Markham provided his verdict to J.D. Gibbs that none of the drivers who auditioned were as good as him. This opinion and belief led to Joe Gibbs Racing signing Hamlin onto their board in 2004.  

NASCAR Career Highlights

  Hamlin’s first race in NASCAR came in a 2004 Truck Series race at the Indianapolis Raceway Park for EJP Racing. He scored a 10th place finish on his debut and went on to make four more appearances in Trucks. His performances led him to his Xfinity Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing at Darlington, where he finished 8th and ended his maiden NASCAR year on a high.   The promising start gave him his first full-time season in NASCAR. He drove the #20 Chevrolet in the 2005 Busch season and finished 5th in points. Icing on the cake, he got to make his Cup Series debut at Kansas as well. It was then that the announcement came that he would replace Jason Heffler full-time in the Cup Series beginning in 2006. Hamlin won his first Cup Series race in the top tier at the Pocono Raceway and took another win at the same venue later in the season. His pursuits and 3rd place in the final standings led him to being named Rookie of the Year.   In 2008, he took his first win in the Martinsville short-track. The track would go on to be one of his best-performing venues over the next two decades. He got his first win at the Richmond Raceway - his home track - in 2009. The win was one of four in the season. The season that followed in 2010 remains his most successful till date. He won a total of 8 races throughout the season and led the points table by 15 points going to the finale at Homestead-Miami. Unfortunately, Jimmie Johnson got the better of him at the track with a 2nd placed finish and he was forced to finish runner-up with a 39 point deficit. The 2010 season is the closest that Hamlin has come to winning a Cup Series title.   He won a Truck Series race in 2011 at Martinsville and joined a select crew who’ve won races in all the three tiers of NASCAR. With the advent of NASCAR’s Championship 4 format in 2014, the sport changed forever. However, Hamlin’s luck for the championship title did not. Hamlin put up a strong performance that year and managed to break into the Championship 4 with a win at Talladega. However, he couldn’t get past Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick in the finale. He finished 3rd in the standings behind Harvick and Ryan Newman.   After a Round of 12 appearance in the 2015 playoffs, Hamlin began his 2016 season with a win at the Daytona 500. The victory was his first in the crown jewel race and ended a 23-year drought for his team in the event. He went on to win at Watkins Glen and the Richmond Raceway that year, finishing 6th in points.   2017 found Hamlin entangled in a feud with Chase Elliott following a crash at Martinsville. The feud rippled over the remainder of the season. It ultimately cost Hamlin a spot in the Championship 4 when Elliott made contact and slammed him into the wall at Phoenix in retaliation. His chances went down the drain with that and he failed to make it to the season finale. 2018 followed up on Hamlin’s miseries. Though he won 4 Busch Light pole awards, he couldn’t find his way to victory lane and finished a full-time year winless for the first time.   2019 was yet another glorious season for the driver. He won the Daytona 500 - for the second time - and continued his dominance throughout the season with 5 more wins. The confidence and grit led him to his second Championship 4 appearance after jumping past a must-win scenario at Phoenix. However, he wasn’t able to repeat the magic at the finale when Kyle Busch won the race at Homestead Miami. Hamlin became a back-to-back winner at the Daytona 500 in 2020. He collected 6 more wins and gained entry to the Championship 4 once again. The winds still refused to flow in his favor as he succumbed to Chase Elliott in the finale.   Away from the race track, Hamlin founded his own Cup Series team - 23XI Racing - in partnership with Michael Jordan in 2020. 2021 saw him put together a consistent regular season, but his first win did not come until the playoffs. Another win at Las Vegas helped him enter the Championship 4 for the 4th time. He finished 3rd in the standings, the title continuing to elude his slippery fingers.    2022 saw another strong effort from him. With wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and Richmond, he gave it his best to grab a Championship 4 spot again. But fate intervened this time in the form of Ross Chastain and his infamous ‘Hail Melon’ move at Martinsville. Hamlin ended up 5th in the standings. The latest season, 2023, saw him suffer mechanical failures and crew issues that resulted in yet another 5th placed finish. He heads into the 2024 season with a win at the pre-season opening Busch Light Clash. Hamlin holds 51 wins in the Cup Series over his 18 year career.  

Team Ownership and Podcast

  Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan share a long running friendship. The result of their relationship was the creation of 23XI Racing. Founded in 2020, the team signed Bubba Wallace as its driver for the #23 Toyota car. It ran its first race in 2021 and added one more car to the roster for the 2022 season. With Kurt Busch behind the wheel of the new #45 Toyota, the team saw steady growth. Tyler Reddick replaced Busch for the 2023 season.   The team reached unprecedented heights in the 2023 season with both its cars making it into the postseason. The team has garnered 5 race victories thus far.    Hamlin joined hands with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the beginning of the 2023 season to host his own podcast - Actions Detrimental. The show is a part of Dale Jr.’s production house DirtyMo Media.   

Personal Life and Family

  Hamlin’s first romantic relationship was with his highschool sweetheart, Kristin Buntain, between 1999 and 2007. He met Jordan Fish in 2007 during a Charlotte Bobcats game and began dating her in 2009. The couple have two children, Taylor and Molly. While their relationship had been turbulent in recent years with some public and harsh split ups, they got together back in 2023 and announced their engagement.    Hamlin’s parents, Dennis and Mary Lou, played a big role in helping his career grow. Dennis Hamlin was a trailer mechanic who made his living from paycheck to paycheck. The couple financed their son’s racing career by selling the collection of antique cars that they had and anything else of value they possessed. Now that Hamlin is one of NASCAR’s biggest stars, they have sold their trailer repair business and retired to their home in Davidson, North Carolina.  

Net Worth 

  Reports suggest that Denny Hamlin’s net worth falls at around the $65 million mark. One of NASCAR’s richest stars, he commands a salary of over $14 million per season. Add that up with the $3 million that he gets to take home via endorsements and sponsor deals, his earnings shoot up considerably. His race team 23XI Racing also adds a major revenue stream to the bank account through race wins and sponsorships. Hamlin owns a 31,000 square feet mansion near Lake Norman that is built on a property that he bought for $1.375 million in 2014.  

Denny Hamlin Foundation

  The Denny Hamlin Foundation is a non-profit organization formed in 2008. Denny Hamlin and his parents serve as the key employees of it and work towards raising funds for children suffering from cystic fibrosis and other such chronic diseases. The foundation has donated $2.3 million towards its cause thus far. Main beneficiaries include Safe Kids Worldwide and Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU.   

Social Media

  Hamlin is active on social media through his handles on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and Facebook