Skip to main content

Denny Hamlin is among the most polarizing figures in NASCAR, and it appears the 43-year-old is primed to continue ruffling feathers. During his recent appearance on Dale Earnhardt. Jr’s podcast, “Dale Jr. Download,” Hamlin suggested any worries of how he is perceived are deteriorating in the late stage of his career.

“You’re give-a-shit level goes down for sure,” Hamlin told Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch talks to Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. | Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

That sentiment was on full display at the fall Bristol race in the Round of 16 of the NASCAR playoffs. After winning the race, Hamlin took a jab at his vocal detractors. During his interview with NBC Sports’ Marty Snider as the boos rained down on Hamlin, he told the crowd, “I beat your favorite driver.” When Snider asked which driver he meant by the comment, Hamlin retorted, “All of them!”

Hamlin said his comments and actions of late are a byproduct of the driver publicly being himself.

“I am being true to how I am,” he said. “I’ve been this way for a long time.”

Part of the reason, he explained, is Hamlin’s podcast, “Actions Detrimental.” He suggests the podcast allows him to be more open about his opinions on the sport. Another factor is the security of having a longtime sponsor in FedEx that isn’t pulling the proverbial leash on Hamlin.

It is leading to a more laissez faire approach for the part-owner of 23XI Racing. Hamlin said he wasn’t this open about his opinions and criticisms or drivers or the sport, at least publicly, several years ago.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” Hamlin said. “Gibbs fires me? Okay, I’ll go drive for myself. I just think about what’s the worst that could happen if I’m true to myself.”

Hamlin is aware he’s a polarizing figure, but as his group of haters has grown, so has his number of fans, he said.

He believes drivers courting controversy or egging on their naysayers is good for NASCAR. Hamlin said he respects drivers who fervently avoid controversy, noting they are staying true to themselves, but he believes such personalities, “stunts the growth of the sport.”  

Earnhardt Jr. seemingly agrees. He likened Hamlin’s Bristol post-race antics to a “wrestling promo,” hinting that NASCAR likely believes such actions are fantastic for broadening the appeal of the racing series.

As he enters his 19th full season in the Cup Series, he’s going to remain “opinionated,” particularly on his podcast.

“I try my best to see [situations] subjectively, but I also know that…fans will see it however they want to see it,” Hamlin said. “And it’s not always going to align. It’s just my opinion, and I know I’m not always going to be right, that’s for sure.”