In his 17th season, Denny Hamlin is once again standing atop the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings, and his totally confident in his place in the sport.
Sure, he doesn’t have a Cup Series championship, but he has 44 victories and three of them have come in the Daytona 500. He’s arguably surpassed Mark Martin as the most decorated stock car driver of all-time without the big prize.
Thus, he entirely dismissed the notion from NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty that he should be looking over his shoulder after Ty Gibbs won in his Xfinity Series debut at the Daytona Road Course and that Joe Gibbs Racing’s youngest driver Christopher Bell won the next day in the Cup Series.
“You talk about [Bell] being 26, we’ve got Harrison Burton, you talk about Ty Gibbs,” Petty said. “If I’m a veteran driver in the Gibbs organization, I’m looking over my shoulder and in the rearview mirror because I’m watching my replacement out there win race, win races at the Xfinity level, win races at the Cup level. So that’s gotta light a fire under a Denny Hamlin, under a Kyle Busch.”
Burton and Gibbs are 20 and 18, respectively, while Hamlin and Truex are 40 and 35. Burton won four races in the Xfinity Series last season while Gibbs has won numerous ARCA races over the past tow years.
Hamlin took exception to the notion that Burton and Gibbs are ready for prime time at the expense of himself or Kyle Busch, who won just once last year, and split from longtime crew chief Adam Stevens.
His point of contention, he claims, is that analysts like Petty don’t even watch races unless its his portion of the schedule. The first half of the season airs on FOX Sports.
“It’s unlikely he has any clue of what’s going on,” Hamlin tweeted.
It was an argument that resonated with fellow Cup Series star Brad Keselowski too.
During a video press conference on Wednesday, Hamlin expounded on his argument, both for his continued employment and against Petty’s analysis.
“I can understand it coming from fans because they’re not prefaced to information that analysts or media are,” Hamlin said. “So, my thing was just like, have you not seen one article in the last — have you watched one race in the last two years? Have you seen any articles about re-signing? Like, I don’t know. It just dumbfounds me, but it’s also not surprising. …
“I’m not sure who I can equate it to in another sports world, but essentially someone else that’s at the top of their game, and [analysts are] like, ‘Oh, this guy scored 30 off the bench, he’s coming for your starting position.’ OK…”
Hamlin has averaged five wins a year over the half past decade and recently signed a multi-year extension with Joe Gibbs Racing. Martin Truex Jr. also signed an extension over the winter.
Source: Auto Week