Denny Hamlin ‘Hurt’ by Missed Chance in 2018 Despite Incredible NASCAR Daytona 500 Stat

Published 02/18/2021, 11:51 AM EST
HAMPTON, GA – FEBRUARY 23: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, walks through the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 23, 2018 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


Achieving a three-peat of crowns or titles in any sport is always a commendable feat. So when Denny Hamlin aimed to complete that in the 2021 Daytona 500, it made for an intriguing storyline ahead of the race.

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Unfortunately, it did not turn out perfectly for the Joe Gibbs Racing racer this time around, as he drove home to finish fifth. The fact that he was leading in the race at one point will be something he would introspect in hindsight.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner recently took to Twitter to respond about a fascinating stat that has held true since 2012. Apparently now, Hamlin has more wins in the ‘Great American Race’ than he does with finishes outside of the Top 5.

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‘Ones that got away that burn the deepest,’ commented Denny Hamlin

Replying to a tweet from the handle ‘r/NASCAR on Reddit’, the JGR No.11 said, “But it’s the ones that got away that burn the deepest.” Incredibly so, the only times he finished outside of the Top 5 were during the 2013 and 2017 editions of the event.

But undoubtedly, the results from 2014 and 2018 immediately come to mind when talking about missed opportunities.

Driving in the 2014 Daytona 500, Hamlin started fourth after winning his Duel 2 ahead of the other competitors. Hamlin also made sure he stayed just behind pack leader Dale Earnhardt. But a caution at the end only ensured that the latter won the race.

A similar story occurred in the 2018 Daytona 500, where Hamlin begun the pursuit of the race in second. Only Austin Dillon and a determined Bubba Wallace, who snatched his best ever finish in the event, bettered his efforts.

Hamlin will now prioritize winning a championship this season

Therefore, in perspective, had Hamlin won the 2018 Daytona 500, it would have completed an incredible three-peat considering he won the event in 2019 and 2020. But now that that opportunity has passed, there is a bigger and more important objective at stake.

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HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 17: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, prepares to start during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Speedway in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Hamlin does not yet have a championship title win to his name. Therefore, he can now invest his focus on winning the other races. So if he secures the 2021 Cup Series title, missing out on the Daytona 500 might not hurt that much.

Winning a hat-trick of Daytona 500 titles would certainly have made Hamlin stand out of the crowd. But as it stands, he can only look back and think about what could have been.

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Bhargav Gopal

927 articles

Hailing from Bengaluru, Bhargav is an F1 and NASCAR author for EssentiallySports. He is a huge fan of Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Bhargav also has an MBA in Sports Management from the Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences, Pune.

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