Nascar: Is Hamlin the Next Big Threat?

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As all Nascar fans are well aware, this game can have its slow periods. We often seem to go months, even years, with no big news, no major controversies, and no fresh contenders of note. So it’s exciting when a guy like Denny Hamlin comes along. The wildly popular 30-year-old has dared to make big waves in a game that generally encourages its young drivers to toe the line and learn from the big boys.

And in a year of slumping attendance and financial difficulties all-around, the arrival of a flamboyant young driver comes at just the right time. This has many calling Denny Hamlin Nascar’s next great hope for the future of the sport.

Of course, all of this comes before he has even won a major championship. This could change soon enough, though, as most people around the sport seem to agree that Hamlin has the talent and the team to go far.

Although he still hasn’t risen to the top spot in the sport, he has had some impressive streaks of dominance, including three of his last six races heading into the mid-summer months. This has of course led to speculation that Hamlin could challenge reigning champ Jimmie Johnson and the currently top-ranked Kevin Harvick in this fall’s 10-race playoff.

Although his brash style rubs some the wrong way, there’s no doubt that Hamlin has an inspiring story. He was nearly out of racing in 2002 due to financial woes, and he had even resigned himself to the idea of working full-time at his dad’s trailer-hitch shop in rural Virginia. His second lease on the sport came in 2003, when he was discovered by Joe Gibbs Racing. Since then, his improvement has been steady, but he’s always come up short.

So what’s different this year? Well, it’s well-known around this sport that some drivers need several years in the game to pull it all together, and Hamlin is clearly one of those late bloomers. Plus, his personality has seemed to blossom this year. He has a confidence he’s never had before, and the attention following his various controversies seems only to add fuel to his fire.

If all goes well, Hamlin could turn into the next big thing for Nascar. Should he go far this fall, his personality alone is likely to draw in a whole new wave of fans, which, no matter what you think of Hamlin himself, is always a good thing.

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