Of the drivers in the Championship 4, the only one to make it this far before and never win a championship is Denny Hamlin. He’s been here three times — in 2014, 2019 and 2020 — and finished runner-up in 2010 during the pre-Championship 4 days but has yet to bring home the sport’s biggest prize. Will Sunday’s race at Phoenix be his long-awaited moment?
Of the four finalists, Hamlin probably has the biggest chip on his shoulder. He was leading late in last weekend’s elimination race at Martinsville Speedway when a bump from non-playoff driver Alex Bowman sent his No. 11 Toyota spinning and out of contention. Hamlin was none too pleased with the contact and expressed his displeasure with Bowman immediately after the race by interfering with Bowman’s celebration on the frontstretch. Nevertheless, Hamlin is focused on this weekend and believes that of the four contenders, Kyle Larson is his biggest threat.
Larson leads all drivers with nine victories this season and edged Hamlin, who owns two wins in 2021, for the regular season championship. “I’ve said for many, many weeks now that it would be a disservice if someone other than the two of us didn’t win the championship,” Hamlin said. “I mean, he’s obviously probably the most deserving over the course of the year that he’s had from start to finish. But with the format, you just never know. Certainly, I think when you look at the four that are in it, I think it’s the best four that you could possibly put in that race. I think all of them would be deserving champions.”