Denny Hamlin has already stated that he wants to stay with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing for the rest of his racing career. However, the NASCAR rumor mill is really heating up for both him and his team 23XI Racing. Could they be making a change to another manufacturer?
Hamlin has yet to sign an extension with JGR, and there may be more to the holdup than just sponsorship and funding. Sponsorship money plays a big role in NASCAR; but with Hamlin being co-owner of a race team, he has other things to keep in mind.
With only 11 races remaining in the season, it's beginning to grow quite late for Hamlin to get his new deal done. If he plans to stay focused on trying to win that elusive championship, why isn't the deal signed? At this point, it feels eerily like the 2022 Kyle Busch-Joe Gibbs situation, and the rumors and speculation of a possible departure are starting to get louder around the garage.
Lee Spencer, a senior writer at Catchfence.com, was the first to bring up the possible rumor during the race weekend at Michigan. In an article, Spencer raised the idea that Hamlin could be looking elsewhere for a ride in 2024 and that 23XI Racing has had a conversation with reps from Ford about a possible manufacturer switch.
Performance Racing Network's GoPRN Live Show, hosted by Doug Rice and Alexis Erickson with NBC Sports' Kyle Petty as the guest co-host, talked about the possibility of the "rumor" being a real possibility. They also had Spencer on the phone to talk more about Hamlin and 23XI's future. Rice asked Spencer if Hamlin could truly be involved with a shake-up in the driver lineup of the Cup Series.
"Well, I think absolutely. I mean, you've been at the track lately. Some of the hot rumors over the last two weeks has been the fact that even though he says he's not looking for a charter, which understandable because the going rate from what we hear out there is $40 to $50 million, right?" Spencer said. "But it sounds like potentially two charters might be becoming available via Stewart-Haas Racing. Not sure, you know, what's going on there. Have been told by several sources Smithfield isn't coming back, which means Almirola's not coming back — I think he is just waiting for the right time and place to make his announcement. But there is so much up in the air. And with Denny in particular, the fact that Legacy Motorsports is coming in there with absolutely no connection to Toyota, but gets moved up to the front of the line, is having a mano a mano relationship with him, and Denny's relationship is through Joe Gibbs, I think that complicates the situation as well."
There isn't any concrete evidence yet that Hamlin and 23XI are going anywhere, but clearly something is up. For this to get so much coverage and chatter, their future with Toyota is clearly in question at this point.
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