By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
DARLINGTON, S.C. – With two marquee wins, Denny Hamlin’s legacy has been firmly cemented in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
With two wins in the Daytona 500 and the Bojangles Southern 500, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has equaled a select few, Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Cale Yarborough in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Hamlin has the opportunity this weekend to inch closer to Gordon’s three Daytona 500 and six Southern 500-win mark. Last year, he finished third in the Brickyard 400, one of the marquee events at which he has yet to claim victory.
With a win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend, Hamlin would join both Gordon and Johnson as the only drivers to have two Daytona 500s, two Southern 500s, and at least one Brickyard 400 victory.
“The marquee events are certainly important,” Hamlin admitted. “There’s no doubt about it. That’s why letting the Brickyard 400 slip away last year was really tough because that’s one that’s obviously a big marquee one that we haven’t won – the Coke 600 as well.”
Since his 2016 Daytona 500 win, the 38-year-old has earned eight victories. In that time period, he’s visited victory lane on every style of track NASCAR competes at. After a winless 2018 season, Hamlin has earned four victories in 2019, the most recent race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Hamlin reflected on his accomplishments over the course of the past three years.
“We’ve had our share of good wins and obviously since that ’16 Daytona win, we’ve won another Southern 500 and another Daytona 500. I don’t know whether you’re kind of defined by the number of wins or the type of wins that you have, but certainly all of them play a role in what your legacy is long after you’re gone.
“I think that hopefully we’re building something here that we can be proud of when it’s time to hang it up.”
In his No. 11 FedEx Darlington Throwback Toyota Camry, Hamlin was 11th and eighth fastest in the two practice sessions.
Entering Darlington Raceway, Hamlin sits third in the championship points standings with 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. Although he is 77-points behind teammate Kyle Busch in the championship points standings, he is just six behind in playoff points.
Tied with another teammate in playoff points, Martin Truex, Jr., Hamlin’s only chance to eclipse Busch is to sweep the entire weekend.