Denny Hamlin could have had a very different career path if things went Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s way back in 2005.
It is hard to imagine Hamlin without Joe Gibbs Racing. After all, the No. 11 driver has been with them since 2004. However, when things were not looking good for a young Hamlin back then, Dale Jr. offered an alternative route.
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Speaking in the recent episode of the Actions Detrimental podcast, Hamlin recollected how Dale Jr was trying to persuade him to join Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
“I don’t know how many people know this but, I signed with JGR in 2004. This was about the time that me and Dale Jr started a friendship from racing online together. And I actually went to the Daytona 500 in 2004 to be a guest of his. And he had me staying with Martin Truex oddly enough in a little townhouse with Josh Snyder, and a few of his other buddies.
“In 2005, I run probably 4–5 months into that season. Dale Jr brings me over to his house and he says, ‘You really need to get out of that #20 car.’”
Hamlin’s career hadn’t taken off then. He only had a couple of starts in the Truck Series.
Dale Jr. responded to Hamlin’s recollection by revealing his side of the story.
“He had his meeting, and secretly even then, I was like, ‘Man, I wish I could get him to come to DEI. I wish we were hiring him, not Joe Gibbs.’ But he goes and has his meeting,” Dale Jr said.
“I went to him, it was very brief, I was just like, ‘Hey man, I want you to know this is an opportunity available to you. I don’t know what you’re doing or how you feel about your future or where you’re at, but I want you to consider it'”.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be as Hamlin stayed with JGR. But after 48 wins and three Daytona Cup wins to show for it, Hamlin won’t have regretted this decision. Considered as one of the best drivers in the series, Hamlin is still looking for his first Championship, one criticism he faces to be considered among the NASCAR greats.