Denny Hamlin Added to NASCAR's "75 Greatest" List

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Denny Hamlin Added to NASCAR's "75 Greatest" ListJames Gilbert - Getty Images

In 1998, during its 50th anniversary season, NASCAR unveiled what it considered its 50 greatest drivers. The list included most of the stars from the organization’s earliest years, many of whom eventually would find their way into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when it opened in 2010.

Beginning April 9, the sanctioning body will add 25 names to its “all-time” list as part of its 75th anniversary celebration. It is expected to name five drivers per week—most likely one per weekday—in the five weeks ending with the May 14th Goodyear 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

The newest group among the sport’s greatest drivers is being selected by a committee comprised of former drivers, team owners, industry personnel, NASCAR executives, and current and former media members. All 75—the original 50 class named 25 years ago and the new 25—will be recognized during Goodyear 400 pre-race ceremonies.


As NASCAR celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998, company president Bill France called that group “the men who define the competition of our sport.” He added, “Their accomplishments are the benchmark that much of our history is identified by. Honoring them in this way, at the beginning of the NASCAR 50th anniversary celebration, is one way of showing our true appreciation for them and the invaluable contribution they have given over the past 50 years. These are the drivers who made and make NASCAR fans stand on their feet and cheer. These are the drivers who are NASCAR history.”

The original “50 Greatest Drivers” were from the Modified, Xfinity Series, and Cup Series. The Craftsman Truck Series was too young to have had any “greatest drivers,” but that’s expected to change with this new group.

nascar cup series 62nd annual daytona 500
In 2020, Denny Hamlin celebrated his third Daytona 500 victory.Chris Graythen - Getty Images

Today's Addition: Denny Hamlin

With three Daytona 500 victories, another in the Coca-Cola 600, three in the Southern 500, and 41 more in the Cup Series, owner/driver Denny Hamlin is clearly one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers. And even without a championship on his resume, the Virginian is certainly Hall of Fame-bound when he becomes eligible.

Hamlin, whose entire career has been with Joe Gibbs Racing, reached Cup after enjoying great success in various short-track series in Virginia and the Carolinas. He graduated from the Xfinity Series to Cup in 2006 and was promptly named Rookie of the Year, joining fellow Virginians Bill Dennis, Lennie Pond, Ricky Rudd, Ronnie Thomas, Jimmy Hensley, and Jeff Burton.

Talk about consistency: Hamlin has at least one Cup victory in 16 of 18 seasons and has been top-5 in final points eight times. His Xfinity resume is almost as impressive, with 21 poles and 17 victories. He’s even added a pole and two Craftsman Truck Series victories to his resume.

His 48 career Cup victories tie him with Hall of Fame driver the late Herb Thomas for 16th on NASCAR’s all-time victory list. Only two drivers—Kyle Busch with 61 and Kevin Harvick with 60—are ahead of him on the list of active winners. Hamlin is only the second active driver—after former champion Kyle Larson—to be named among the 75 Greatest Drivers during NASCAR’s 75th anniversary celebration.

One of his most impressive accomplishments is teaming with NBA legend Michael Jordan to form 23XI Racing in 2021. All three of its full-time drivers—Bubba Wallace (twice), Kurt Busch, and Tyler Reddick— have won in the team’s No. 23 Toyotas. Seldom has an active driver done so well on the ownership side of Cup Series racing while still being a competitive front-runner almost every weekend.

Among the sport’s 75 Greatest Drivers? No argument allowed.

NASCAR'S 50 Greatest Drivers

Selected in 1998

Bobby Allison
Davey Allison
Buck Baker
Buddy Baker
Geoff Bodine
Neil Bonnett
Red Byron
Jerry Cook
Dale Earnhardt
Ralph Earnhardt
Bill Elliott
Richie Evans
Red Farmer
Tim Flock
A.J. Foyt
Harry Gant
Jeff Gordon
Ray Hendrick
Jack Ingram
Ernie Irvan
Bobby Isaac
Dale Jarrett
Ned Jarrett
Junior Johnson
Alan Kulwicki
Terry Labonte
Fred Lorenzen
Tiny Lund
Mark Martin
Hershel McGriff
Cotton Owens
Marvin Panch
Benny Parsons
David Pearson
Lee Petty
Richard Petty
Tim Richmond
Fireball Roberts
Ricky Rudd
Marshall Teague
Herb Thomas
Curtis Turner
Rusty Wallace
Darrell Waltrip
Joe Weatherly
Bob Welborn
Rex White
Glen Wood
Cale Yarborough
LeeRoy Yarbrough

The Next 25

Selected in 2023

(To be released one per weekday by NASCAR, in no particular order.)

51, Tony Stewart

52, Kasey Kahne

53, Mike Stefanik

54, Randy Lajoie

55, Kyle Larson

56, Greg Biffle

57, Sterling Marlin

58, Ryan Newman

59, Denny Hamlin

60, Coming April 22