Denny Hamlin ready to inherit role as Cup series ‘old guy’

NEWTON, IOWA - JUNE 14: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Interstate Batteries Toyota, enters his car during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway on June 14, 2024 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

When Martin Truex Jr. leaves his full-time ride in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at the end of the season, his teammate, Denny Hamlin, will inherit the mantle of oldest driver in the NASCAR Cup Series.

With Truex’s exit, all the drivers whom Hamlin conquered for rookie-of-the-year honors in 2006 will be gone from NASCAR’s top series. That list includes Truex, Clint Bowyer, J.J. Yeley, David Stremme and Reed Sorenson.

“There was such a big rookie class back in 2006,” said Hamlin, who will turn 44 on Nov. 18. “Everyone’s gone… everyone’s gone. Martin was just a barometer for success and speed when we were coming into the Cup Series.

“Man, it certainly doesn’t feel like I’m the oldest, but I guess, when you put it all in perspective and see these guys peel off, I certainly feel it, but my mind doesn’t make me believe that I’m the oldest.”

In announcing his departure from full-time Cup racing on Friday, Truex cited a strong desire to pursue personal interests and set his own schedule. Hamlin, who co-owns 23XI Racing with former NBA superstar Michael Jordan in addition to his driving duties for JGR, feels no such impulse.

“When I think of Martin, we couldn’t be more opposite, but there’s no one that I envy probably more than him,” Hamlin said. “He’s just that type of person — I wish I could be like that, but I couldn’t be more opposite.

“That’s him, the way he carries himself, the way he does business. I put the work load on myself that I do. I think that Martin really enjoys his ‘down’ time. To me, I don’t like down time. I like to stay busy, and I like to keep working. It just depends on what I’m working on in that moment.

“I hate to sit around being bored, but some people love that, and that’s their way of getting passionate about going to the race track every weekend. Everyone’s different, but certainly he’s in a spot where he’s weighed the pros and the cons, and he just got to the point where the pros of not (racing full-time) outweighed sticking around.”