Denny Hamlin is Embracing the Villain Role, Apparently Against His Dad’s Wishes
Denny Hamlin won Saturday’s Clash at the Coliseum and again used his post-race interview to egg on his detractors. Hamlin, during an interview with Fox’s Jamie Little that was broadcast live to fans in the Coliseum told those attending, “You know I beat your favorite driver again, right?” over the chorus of boos from the stands. It’s a line Hamlin has used before, notably after winning the fall Bristol Race last season in the Round of 16 of the NASCAR playoffs.
Hamlin, on his latest “Actions Detrimental” podcast episode, said he was at first encouraged by cheers after climbing out of his No. 11 Toyota. However, the boos that typically accompany any of the 43-year-old driver’s wins soon became a chorus.
“There was cheers and I was feeling them…and all of a sudden [Jamie Little] starts wrapping (the interview) up and I just hear this, there was like a tsunami of boos,” Hamlin said. “It started just coming, and it just kept getting louder. And I’m like, ah, I might need to remind these folks one more time.”
Hamlin then called Little back over and “reminded” fans he had beaten all their favorite drivers again.
The incident underscores previous comments by Hamlin that his “give-a-shit-factor” is deteriorating later in his career. Although he is apparently embracing his role as one of the sport’s most hated drivers, his father isn’t so receptive to Hamlin goading his haters.
As a result, he is “retiring” his “I beat all you favorite drivers” phrase, he said. Hamlin’s father texted him after the Clash stating he’s “got to stop that,” adding he “doesn’t like that” out of his son and “It’s just too cocky.”
“I’m going to listen to dad on this one,” Hamlin said on the episode, adding jokes are never as funny the second time.
Hamlin may not be a general fan favorite, but he didn’t make any on-track enemies in the Clash. Few drivers in the race, which was rescheduled to Saturday night in response to an expected weather washout, came away from the event without causing the ire of at least one of their fellow drivers.
Hamlin held off the field in a green-white-checker sequence to capture his fourth Clash win. It’s his first win since the event moved to L.A. Hamlin said he was glad to have one of the sport’s other most hated drivers, Kyle Busch, behind him for the two-lap sprint.
“If I had to choose anyone to be behind me, it would be Kyle,” Hamlin said. “Cause I just felt, while, yeah, I may get shoved by him, I don’t think it would be an unfair shove. I think he would try to win the race…but I felt confident he wasn’t going to take me out. He was going to at least give me a fighting chance to race it out.”
Hamlin continually locked up his front left tire during the final laps. He said he “never saw smoke,” and it didn’t seem to impact his speed. Following an excellent restart, and with other drivers battling behind him, Hamlin built enough of a gap to prevent any last-lap drama.
The race marked the end of the three-year contract NASCAR inked with the L.A. Coliseum to hold its pre-season exhibition race at the venerable stadium. Bubba Wallace, Hamlin’s 23XI Racing teammate, has suggested it’s time for NASCAR to explore other venues.
Hamlin appears to agree. He notes the race payout is significantly less than a typical NASCAR race, so there’s not much financial incentive. Hamlin said he would be “willing to go anywhere” if the Clash purse was equivalent to a typical race.