Hamlin’s contract extension had lots of moving parts

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - SEPTEMBER 09: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Yahoo! Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on September 09, 2023 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin’s commitment to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing featured a lot more moving parts than a run-of-the-mill driver contract.

First, Hamlin had to renew the agreement of 23XI Racing, the team he owns with former NBA superstar Michael Jordan, with Toyota. Hamlin also had to cement the deal with JGR as a supplier for 23XI.

As of NASCAR Cup Series Playoff media day in Charlotte—four days before the Playoff opener at Darlington Raceway—Hamlin had not signed his deal with Gibbs, but that circumstance changed after Hamlin finished 25th at the Track Too Tough to Tame.

Hamlin, however, said the urgency of the Playoffs had little to do with the completion of his agreements and that the timing occurred naturally.

“A little bit of both,” Hamlin said Saturday at Kansas Speedway. “I would say more natural time than anything. Obviously, you have to prepare for all different kinds of scenarios, so you need a certain amount of time to work all of those out.

“I just think it happened naturally, more than timeline with the Playoffs, for sure.”

Hamlin is fifth in the Cup Series standings, having offset his disappointing finish by winning the first two stages at Darlington.

He said Saturday that the issue that caused him to make an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 274 of 367 was indeed a loose wheel.

“The socket (on the left rear tire) is turning, turning, turning and it never stopped,” Hamlin said. “The left rear is one of the most sensitive corners. If it was the left front, we probably could have gotten away with it, no problem.

“It’s just the way that track works. It’s the most sensitive corner on the car. When it’s not all the way tight, you are going to feel it dramatically, and it would continue to just back off to that safety clip and then it would have damaged the hub so bad that we wouldn’t have been able to get a tire on.”