Denny Hamlin's racing style has changed, and all-time greats like Dale Earnhardt Jr. are taking notice.
Hamlin has had plenty of triumphs in his NASCAR Cup career, with three wins in the Daytona 500 among other crown jewel victories — all adding up to his 50th victory last weekend at Pocono Raceway.
But there is still something he is lacking: a Cup Series championship, as he is all but now the new Mark Martin in many ways. One person who has seen a major change in Hamlin's approach to racing is NASCAR Hall of Famer and broadcaster Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt has seen a far more aggressive Hamlin in the last couple of seasons as the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Toyota has gotten older.
Examples of his aggressiveness have really shown themselves this season. He has had plenty of on-track run-ins with drivers that have led to some form of issues between him and the other driver. Those include his incident with Chase Elliott during the Coca-Cola 600 earlier this season, and even last Sunday when he and Kyle Larson butted heads on the track for the lead.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Adresses Denny Hamlin's Change In Driving Style
On a new episode of his "Dale Jr. Download" podcast, Earnhardt addressed the change in Hamlin's driving style and attitude — the attitude of, "I'm tired of being run over, so it's time I do it back," more or less.
"For the last two and a half years or however long Denny's been getting run over and crying about it, and not doing nothing, it's sort of changed a little bit," Earnhardt said. "Seems like he's doing something, right? My question is, is that the difference-maker in Denny becoming a champion or not?"
Earnhardt also talked about how all you see on Twitter about Hamlin is that he hasn't won a championship so he isn't worth a damn.
"Is that change in mentality, which is certainly a different style than we usually see from Denny, is that going to, will that make a difference for him this year?" Earnhardt said. "Because that's everybody's — when you go on Twitter, that's everything you read. 'Guy ain't never won a championship, guy ain't never won a championship.'"
Hamlin has won a lot of major races in his career. Is he a Hall of Famer? Probably. No offense to Earnhardt or Mark Martin, but they both never won a Cup title and are in the Hall of Fame.
Is Hamlin more aggressive? Yes. Is this how he finally wins that elusive championship? Maybe not. The field is so competitive that it's hard to confidently say that he will.
He's a contender, without a doubt, but his chances of actually winning the championship are growing thinner no matter how many years he keeps trying. You can only get into it with so many drivers and whine about it for so long.
So Earnhardt is right about there being a clear change in the way Hamlin races. He's already gotten into two Cup champions this year — is there some possible jealousy there?
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.