Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin was eliminated from 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship contention before the Championship 4 for the first time since 2018.
Prior to this past weekend, the last time Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin had competed in a race and had no chance at winning that season’s NASCAR Cup Series championship was in November 2018, when he competed in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hamlin qualified for the Championship 4 in 2019, 2020, and 2021, and he was the only driver who advanced to the winner-take-all round in all three years.
He appeared poised to advance to the final round for the fourth straight season this year, but what looked like his Championship 4 spot went to Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain in dramatic fashion.
On the final lap of the round of 8 finale, Chastain making a bizarre move along the outside wall to make up five positions coming to the checkered flag, advancing to the Championship 4 for the first time in his career and eliminating Hamlin before the final round for the first time in four years.
Interestingly, because of the post-race disqualification for RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski and the associated changes in race results and stage results, Chastain would have advanced over Hamlin even without that pass, as they would have been tied on points with Chastain holding a tiebreaker due to a better top finish in the round of 8.
Regardless, Hamlin has kept his position on the all-time wins list among drivers who never won a championship. With 48 victories, he ranks second on that list.
Here is a list of drivers who never won a championship despite winning at least 20 races throughout their careers.
Junior Johnson – 50
Denny Hamlin – 48
Mark Martin – 40
Fireball Roberts – 33
Carl Edwards – 28
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 26
Fred Lorenzen – 26
Jim Paschal – 25
Ricky Rudd – 23
Jack Smith – 21
Jeff Burton – 21
Speedy Thompson – 20
It is worth mentioning that Hamlin already owns the record among full-time drivers, as the late Junior Johnson never competed full-time in the Cup Series.
During his 14-year career from 1953 to 1966, Johnson never ran the full schedule, and he only completed more than half the schedule on seven occasions. Hamlin tied and broke Mark Martin’s record of 40 in 2020, when he secured wins 38 through 44.
In four Championship 4 appearances from 2014 to 2021, Hamlin never finished higher than third place. His best career finish in the point standings is the runner-up finish he earned in 2010 when he finished behind Jimmie Johnson, who won his fifth straight title.