MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 29: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Toyota, reacts after the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 29, 2023 in Martinsville, Virginia.
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Championship Eludes Hamlin Once Again

Another strong year ends without a NASCAR Cup championship for Denny Hamlin. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing will have to once again wait yet another year to add that elusive championship to his resume.

Hamlin finished third at Martinsville, but it wasn't enough to advance to the Championship Four. Ryan Blaney won the race and William Byron grabbed the final spot for the championship-deciding race at Phoenix, beating Hamlin by just eight points.

For those Hamlin fans out there, they will have to wait once again. It's still hard to believe that Hamlin has not yet won a championship given all the races he has won—51 and counting. For whatever reason, the guy just hasn't had luck fall his way when it comes to winning the championship.

Hamlin is approaching his 43rd birthday and is coming closer to the end of his driving career. Hamlin has become this era's Mark Martin, who won a lot of races and finished top five in the points multiple times but could never win a title. Will Hamlin ever break through?

After Sunday's race, Fox Sports' Bob Pockrass asked Hamlin if he thought he could still win a championship. Hamlin remains confident that he will do it one day.

"I'm going to compete next season," Hamlin said. "And if I compete next season, I've got a great shot. Every seven days, I have a shot to win (a race) and just not many people can say that."

He has proven he can win on any type of track, so he's not lacking in that department. He contributes a lot of his close championship shortcomings to bad luck.

"I know with the team I've got and the abilities that I've got on short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways—there's nothing missing in the DNA to get it done. It's just sometimes luck is not on your side, and with the format getting a smaller and smaller sample size, luck is a factor in it."

Maybe it's luck, or the other drivers in contention for championships have all been slightly better. For example, Hamilin raced against Jimmie Johnson during each of his seven championship seasons. Or perhaps he's just not championship material. He's raced 17-plus seasons and has 51 wins in his career but zero championships. Until he proves otherwise, Hamlin's reputation for failing to perform in the championship clutch will only grow.

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