Denny Hamlin enjoys being the ‘anti-most popular driver’ in NASCAR
Denny Hamlin embraced the NASCAR villain persona in 2023.
Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott (Via IMAGO)
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Awards saw Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott yet again winning the Most Popular Cup Driver trophy. It was his sixth consecutive win in the category, ten less than his father Bill Elliott who has the most in NASCAR history. He has been winning the award since 2018 and neither Ryan Blaney’s championship win nor Kevin Harvick’s retirement tour was enough for fans to vote for someone else.
While Elliott took the Award for Most Popular Driver, if there was an Award for the Most Unpopular there would be one driver that would’ve won it, Joe Gibbs Racing veteran Denny Hamlin. The 23XI Racing co-owner is infamous for his run-ins with fan favorite driver and his unapologetic attitude towards such incidents made some fans hate him,
He fully embraced his Villain persona this season through his NFG attitude during races as well as in his podcast, Action Detrimental. Hamlin’s huge dig at rival fans who were booing him at the track this season was iconic. At the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, he admitted that he enjoys being the anti-popular driver because he might never match Elliott.
Denny Hamlin says he knows he'll never win the most popular driver award, but it's been fun being the heel. Says he will win the anti-most popular driver nine times out of 10 for the rest of his career. pic.twitter.com/50psZxMOAY— Dustin Albino (@DustinAlbino) December 1, 2023
I certainly have resigned to the fact that I’ll never win that one for sure. It’s fun to kinda be the anti-most popular driver. That’s probably what I’ll win 9 times out of 10 for as long as I am in the sport.
Denny Hamlin explains how he became the NASCAR villain
Hamlin’s journey to becoming unpopular among the fans was primarily because he clashed with fan favorites. In the 2023 season, he had a handful of clashes with HMS’s Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson two fan favorites in the sport. He already had a history with them.
The fans, who hadn’t yet forgotten Hamlin’s past deeds were now more enraged with the clashes, such as Hamlin wrecking Larson for the win and being the cause of Elliott one race suspension. He believes that fans will never look past these events and there is no way for him to get on their good side.
I think the two most popular drivers in our series – Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott – I’ve had run-ins with them. I think fans in general won’t let go of those grudges, right? They won’t look past those instances no matter what. I’ve come to accept there’s just a certain amount of it that will just never go away because as they see it, on one given weekend, I did their driver wrong
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