LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 03: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota, speaks to the media after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 03, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The Clash Points Towards Denny Hamlin Championship Run in 2024

Denny Hamlin won the 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Saturday night. Hamlin even added fuel to the fire with the fans that do not like him.

"You know I beat your favorite driver again, right?" Hamlin said after getting out of his car. A sequel of what he said after winning the Bristol night race back in September. 

The win was Hamlin's fourth of his career in The Clash. Three came at Daytona International Speedway and this was his first at the LA Coliseum.

Getting a win to open the 2024 season is great, but more importantly, is this foreshadowing for a championship winning season for Hamlin?

Since NASCAR moved The Clash out to Los Angeles at the Coliseum, the winner of The Clash has gone on to either win the Cup Series championship or win the regular season championship.

In 2022, Joey Logano won the inaugural event at the LA Coliseum. It was also the first season for NASCAR's "Next Gen" car. Logano came out strong to start the 2022 season as he was the points leader after the fourth race of the year at Phoenix Raceway. It wasn't the smoothest year for Logano as he had four DNFs and he wasn't considered a championship favorite for a majority of the year. Even though it wasn't his best season overall, Logano still went on to win four races, including the season finale at Phoenix, to win his second Cup Series championship.

In 2023, Martin Truex Jr. won the second running of The Clash at the Coliseum. Truex Jr. used that win as a refresh for the No. 19 team as they went winless the year prior in 2022. Truex Jr. would take the points lead after winning at Sonoma Raceway and would only lose the points lead once before winning the regular season championship. The wheels fell off for the No. 19 team in the playoffs, as anything that could have gone wrong went wrong, and it didn't even make the Championship 4. Truex Jr. finished 11th in the points standings in 2023.

Now, there isn't much Hamlin needs to do differently, other than win the Cup Series championship. Ever since Hamlin was paired up with crew chief Chris Gabehart in 2019, he hasn't finished worse than 5th in the standings. Since Gabehart's emergence with the No. 11 team, Hamlin has won 20 races. Hamlin had scored 31 career wins in his first 13 full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Hamlin's performance has not been the problem when it comes to winning a Cup Series championship. In 2019, he had a great chance at winning the championship before an aggressive pit call by Gabehart saw Hamlin have to pit for overheating as a piece of tape covered the grille opening on the front of the car. In 2020, the Toyotas lacked speed on the shorter racetracks, and it was the first year Phoenix hosted the Championship race. In 2021, Hamlin was in position to win the championship before a late race caution saw Kyle Larson's pit crew put him out front and there weren't enough laps for Hamlin to pass Larson. In 2022, Hamlin was in position to make the Championship 4 on the final lap at Martinsville Speedway before Ross Chastain pulled the "Hail Melon" and advanced over Hamlin. Then in 2023, Hamlin looked like a lock to make the Championship 4 until the steering broke on his car late in the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Hamlin was eliminated on points.

The first three times Hamlin won The Clash, the seasons turned out well for the Chesterfield, Va., native. In 2006, Hamlin went on to sweep the races at Pocono Raceway, finish third in the standings and win Rookie of the Year. In 2014, Hamlin went on to make the inaugural Championship 4 where he was leading late in the race before being passed by eventual champion Kevin Harvick. In 2016, Hamlin went on to win his first Daytona 500, win three races, and finish 6th in the standings.

All the signs point towards a really strong year for Denny Hamlin, but the real question is, "Is this finally Denny Hamlin's year to win the championship? "

More: Championship Eludes Hamlin Once Again