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USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

Following last year’s disappointment despite lauding it to be their (#11’s) year, NASCAR’s newly proclaimed villain, Denny Hamlin, has kicked off his Cup Series campaign with a solid win at the Coliseum in a rain-threatened preponed race here on Saturday. Much like his Bristol rant, the outspoken veteran did what he usually does best, riling up fans with a direct poke at them, saying, “You know I beat your favorite driver again, right?”

It’s a great momentum boost,” said the 43-year-old after adding another trophy to his collection, winning his first-ever Coliseum Clash title, and moving forward to take on the 2.5-mile speedway at Daytona, eyeing a fourth win at the iconic venue. Winning the season opener, fans did not pepper him with boos and middle fingers like they did in Bristol last year but were genuinely amazed by the driver’s exceptional performance. With the JGR driver acing the first race of the year, a popular NASCAR stat guy uncovered a bewildering stat that indicates why this would be his year.

A major update as Denny Hamlin wins the season opener

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Hamlin shattered all expectations; he even went beyond his limit, squashing the perceived notion of his naysayers to put out a strong statement that probably will resonate throughout this season. The #11 driver’s win in Los Angeles marked his fourth Clash win, his first one at the quarter-mile. While he racked up three at Daytona Speedway, 2024 saw the driver break another milestone, winning his first Clash at the Coliseum.

Despite starting at the top in the pole position, he was overwhelmed by the field as the driver lost his way towards the middle of the race. But he rallied back to snatch the lead from his boss’ grandson, who, with 10 laps remaining, looked like it would be his day, and fended off the attack from the “Rowdy” Kyle Busch to cross the finish line first in the 150-lap fixture. With Hamlin’s stellar win, Trey Ryan shared fascinating stats about previous Clash winners. In his tweet, he wrote, “The 2 previous Clash at the Coliseum winners went on to win either the Championship or Regular Season Championship.” 

 

 

But will this be Denny Hamlin’s year? Most likely, it will be given that he is one of the most consistent drivers on the roster, and unless something terrible happens, it’s a smooth cruise for the veteran into the playoffs and then on to the final four if it isn’t for a mishap or equipment malfunction.

WATCH THIS STORY: Denny Hamlin triumphs in first Clash at the Coliseum, eliciting cheers from fans 

Hamlin overcame fatigue, putting out a strong statement two months after his shoulder surgery

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Injuries are quite common in sports, but it’s the resilience and grit of the driver that matter when he or she is taking on the challenge, even before the recovery period. In fact, Hamlin just needs two more wins to equal the great Dale Earnhardt‘s record of six wins in the preseason exhibition race. Even more so, his Clash entry was hanging in the balance, with the driver contemplating his entry considering the time required to recover and get back to the grind.

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Hamlin had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on Nov. 22 for a bone spur issue. After the surgery, however, Denny Hamlin was informed his shoulder was worse than expected and the recovery would be longer than expected. Despite all this, the veteran zeroed in on the race once it drew closer. In fact, he won the pole and went on to win the race itself.

Reflecting on his performance, according to RACER.com, he said, “It is very good. We knew that this race was going to fatigue it a little bit. Adrenaline is such a factor. Like last year even though it was really, really bad, adrenaline once you get in the car, it’s a lot different.” He further added, mentioning how it takes a toll on your body with the track being just 0.25-mile long and the drivers needing to constantly steer, which puts more pressure on the shoulders.

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READ MORE: “Second Stuff Sucks” – Kyle Busch Dissects Back-to-Back Busch Light Clash Heartbreak, Claims He Was Better Than Denny Hamlin

“But overall, it feels better than I thought it would, considering how far you have to crank the wheel at this racetrack. But the race is just short enough to fatigue it a little bit, so when I get to Daytona, I’ll be nice and strong,” said the driver, hinting at a repeat next week at Daytona.