Denny Hamlin has the unique position of having to compete against two cars he owns in the NASCAR Cup Series. Does he race them differently?
Late in the 2020 season for the NASCAR Cup Series, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin confirmed he would enter the 2021 season as a team owner, in addition to his role as a full-time driver.
Two years ago yesterday, he and NBA legend Michael Jordan joined to form 23XI Racing (later renamed), and announced a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.
They purchased a charter from Germain Racing and confirmed Bubba Wallace as the #23 Toyota driver for 2021. Wallace was in his third season with Richard Petty Motorsports at the time.
Hamlin was adamant from the start that he wanted 23XI Racing to expand to two cars, and they were able to do so for 2022. Last summer, they announced Kurt Busch, who was in his third season with Chip Ganassi Racing at the time, as the driver of their new #car. 45 Toyota.
So Hamlin finds itself in a unique position: it competes with its drivers on a weekly basis.
But does he race them differently than he races everyone else?
No, but also, yes.
“I race them as I race anyone else,” Hamlin said. beyond science In an interview conducted earlier this season. “I mean, are you trying to cut a break for them and let them in on reboot or something? Yes. If that doesn’t hurt you, try to help.
“But if I’m going to win the race, which is my goal and they are to finish second and third, I have to do everything I can and take advantage of every advantage I can on the track.”
He noted that there hasn’t been any conflict so far, which isn’t much of a surprise. With Hamlin driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing having close ties to 23XI Racing, it’s not as if the team he owns is a rival to the team he’s competing for.
“There wasn’t really any conflict,” he continued. “We have worked really well together. We consider ourselves members of the Toyota team with JGR cars, so it has been a very, very good working relationship so far.”
Unfortunately, Bush has been out of action since July due to concussion-like symptoms he suffered after a qualifying accident at Pocono Raceway.
Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity Series driver Ty Gibbs has taken his place in several races behind the wheel of the #45 Toyota, although the strategic move has since seen Gibbs move to the #23 Toyota in Wallace in qualifying, with Wallace moving to Position 45 Toyota.
Wallace ended up winning just his second start behind the wheel of a #45 Toyota at Kansas Speedway earlier this month.
Who took second place? Hamlin.
Wallace himself has spoken to us previously about the fact that he doesn’t race his teammate differently either.
“no!” He said. “No, we’ve talked about it before. They’re trying to win. … and we’ll do whatever it takes. Clearly [we are] Respect each other and watch what is going on. So yes; We just have to keep it going.”