This is our final installment for the (THE NASCAR CORNER (Nothing to do with NASCAR itself) FAN voted poll) three-part Most Popular Driver blog, our Cup Series Most Popular Driver, Denny Hamlin. In 1988, Denny, like most other drivers, started his racing career at the age of seven, racing go-karts. In 2000, Denny moved onto Late Model Stock cars.
Four short years later, while competing full time in the Late Model Stock Cars Series, Joe Gibbs Racing signed Hamlin to a development driver contract. After signing with Joe Gibbs Racing, Hamlin competed in five Craftsman Truck Series races with EJP Racing in 2004. Denny finished out the year making his first Busch Series start at Darlington Raceway in the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Driven Performance Oil Chevrolet, starting twenty-seventh, but finishing an astounding eighth.
In Hamlin’s 2005 Season, he replaced Mike Bliss to run the #20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet in the Busch Series. He was Rookie of the Year and finished off the year fifth in points and eleven Top Tens. It was also in 2005, in which he made his Cup Series debut at Kansas Speedway as the driver of the #11 Fedex Toyota, competing in seven starts – which led to three Top Tens and one pole at Phoenix International Raceway.
In 2006, Denny competed in the Cup Series full time, while still racing in the Busch Series. On March 5th, he won his first Busch race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. On June 11th, Denny won his first career Cup race at the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway from the pole. Not too long after, on July 23rd, he won the Pennsylvania 500, again, at Pocono Raceway. In the Cup Series, he won the Rookie of the Year award and finished third in the final point standings, becoming the only Rookie to ever make the Chase.
In 2009, Denny continued to drive the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Fedex Toyota in the Sprint Cup Series and sharing the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the Nationwide Series with Joey Logano.
2010 was a year of highs and lows for Denny. He tore his ACL and had to have surgery, slightly interfering with his racing season, if anything; it gave him more motivation to prove all of the people who thought he shouldn’t be racing wrong. After the first twenty-six races, Denny went into the Chase first and battled with Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick for the 2010 Title. But, in the final race at Homestead, Denny lost the points lead to Jimmie Johnson, and placed second, only thirty-nine points behind.