Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin’s win in Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway brings him to within one win of an unwanted record.
With the first ever last lap pass for the lead at Kansas Speedway, one which came after contact on the back straightaway with race leader Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin secured his first win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Because his Pocono Raceway win from last July was stripped from him when his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was disqualified after failing post-race technical inspection, Hamlin entered this past Sunday afternoon’s race having not won since last year’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day Sunday.
His AdventHealth 400 victory ended a 33-race win drought, and it moved him into a 15th place tie on the all-time wins list with Tony Stewart.
With 49 wins, Denny Hamlin is just one shy of an unwanted NASCAR Cup Series record.
No driver has won more than 50 Cup Series races without winning at least one championship. Of the 14 drivers with at least 50 wins, 50-time winner Junior Johnson is the only one without a championship to his name. Hamlin could very well become the winningest non-champion in Cup Series history in the very near future.
Some already consider Hamlin to own that record, ever since he caught and passed Mark Martin with career wins 40 and 41 back in 2020. The reason for this is the fact that Johnson never actually competed full-time.
In fact, he only ran more than half the schedule in seven of his 14 seasons in the Cup Series. Despite winning 50 races in such a short span, he never finished higher than sixth place in the championship standings, for that reason.
There are 19 drivers with more wins than Martin, with Johnson and Hamlin being the only non-champions among them.
Of course, Hamlin will be the first one to tell you that, given the current playoff format, a high win total might just be more important than a championship.
Hamlin is set to go for his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series victory in this Sunday afternoon’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway, a track where he has won four times. The race is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!