“Great Race Car Driver but…”: Familiar Foe Stands Between Denny Hamlin and NASCAR Championship

During the playoffs, NASCAR drivers tend to err on the side of caution during races so as not to end up in an untoward incident. But sometimes, events beyond their control, like pit road incidents and untimely cautions, wash away all they have worked for. In the case of Denny Hamlin, this might be the only reason he could end another year without a championship, according to NASCAR veteran Kyle Petty.

While speaking on the NASCAR on NBC Podcast, the analyst opened up on his expectations from the playoffs, making a case for certain drivers being the favorites in a largely unpredictable season.

Petty feels only one thing can hold back Denny Hamlin from winning it all

Hamlin enters the playoffs on the back of a solid end to the season, with one win and three top 5s in the last six races, and if not for his most potent ‘enemy’, he can sweep the field, according to Petty.

“We see Denny Hamlin, I have all the faith in the world. He is a Hall of Famer, he’s a great race car driver. But once again, his Achilles Heel – Pit Road, raises its head yesterday at Daytona.”

“If he can have clean Pit Road, no penalties, no bad pit stops and stuff like, Denny Hamlin may lap the field and win this championship by a landslide. But he’s got to get some of that.”

Even Hamlin mentioned on his podcast, Actions Detrimental, this week that in the playoffs, mistakes and cautions have a huge impact on who progresses through the playoffs due to an extremely low margin for error.

Kyle Petty puts his money on Martin Truex Jr. to win the Cup

Despite his confidence in Hamlin, it is his JGR teammate, Martin Truex JR., who inspires the most confidence in the analyst as the favorite to win it all. Truex, who returns in 2024 after signing a one-year contract, has been on a redemption tour after a disappointing 2022 season where he missed the playoffs entirely.

“Even though that William (Byron) has five wins, the only driver that I’ve really seen take this year and grab it and say ‘come get it from me’, is Martin Truex. He has been the guy that I believe is the most consistent and has been there, and so I think you kind of got to go through Martin Truex, if they can stay hot. But other than that I’m not seeing anybody who’s that strong”

During the week, Hamlin predicted that he sees Truex Jr., himself, William Byron, and Kyle Larson making it to the championship 4. It will be interesting to see if that holds up, considering how the playoffs tend to spring up surprises most years.

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