Denny Hamlin has enjoyed his entire career at Joe Gibbs Racing — and he expects to remain with the championship organization once his contract expires next year.
Hamlin described his current contract situation as “stable”.
“We’ll be working on one, yes,” Hamlin said. “And we’ll be just fine. I’ve got such a great relationship with JGR and Fed Ex, I’d be a fool to leave either one.”
I was actually very happy with Dave Roger, But ultimately, we’ve had a plan for many, many years to get me and “Wheels” together
Denny Hamlin on 2016 crew chief change
Hamlin has qualifying for the Chase in nine of 10 seasons. He finished ninth in the Sprint Cup standings this season. He posted wins at the first Martinsville Speedway race and again at the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway before being knocked out in the second round of the playoffs.
Partnering with Wheeler as his crew chief a long time coming
But with a new crew chief in Mike Wheeler — his third in four seasons — Hamlin is optimistic he can go the distance in 2016. Hamlin has worked with Wheeler in different capacities over the last 12 seasons — most recently as his team engineer.
“I was actually very happy with Dave Rogers,” Hamlin said. “But ultimately, we’ve had a plan for many, many years to get me and “Wheels” together and that started with him moving to the Xfinity Series. We knew when he moved there, he would eventually get back to the Cup series.
“When he was going to move up, I had to make myself available for him. I can’t have him move up and loan him to Carl for a year. It just doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to make the move the way we did it. I think it works out for everyone. Everyone got who they want right now. And this is my last crew chief for the rest of my career.”
Is Hamlin running out of time?
Certainly, Kyle Busch winning a title at 30 was a wake up call for Hamlin who has been at Joe Gibbs Racing since 1995. However, the 35-year-old Chesterfield, Va. native isn’t feeling the pressure to perform despite the wave a young guns entering the sport. Hamlin says there are drivers “still performing at crazy high levels well into their mid-40s”.
“I don’t feel like (the clock) is ticking,” Hamlin said. “I think there’s some young talent obviously coming up in our sport this year that could raise everyone’s level, so it’s always ticking. You always want to get that first one in.
“It’s always been right there in front of me. It’s better than what a lot of guys could say, but before my career is over, we have to have multiple championships, for sure. I thought I’d have one in the first three years of my Cup career. Things just didn’t work out for whatever reason. It comes down to I’m still in it with one, two races to go. Then something bananas happens and takes me out. Eventually, that wave has got to turn in your favor.”