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December 1, 2022

Denny Hamlin ‘optimistic’ about closing out driving career at JGR, plans to retire ‘on my terms’

Denny Hamlin answers questions during Champion's Week activities in the Music City Center in Nashville
Zack Albert
NASCAR Studios

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Denny Hamlin provided an offseason update heading into what will be a contract year for him, saying Thursday that he’s hopeful to return to Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2023 campaign.

Hamlin’s remarks came before Thursday evening’s NASCAR Awards festivities at Nashville’s Music City Center, where Joey Logano will be honored as this year’s Cup Series champion. Hamlin confirmed during his morning availability that contracts are up for both him and longtime sponsor FedEx after the 2023 season.

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“Certainly, I’ve always wanted to finish my career at JGR,” Hamlin said, “and I’m optimistic that will be the case.”

Hamlin has driven for Coach Joe Gibbs’ No. 11 team since the beginning of his Cup Series career in 2005, a successful stretch that’s totaled 48 victories in 614 starts. The 42-year-old veteran won twice last season and placed fifth in the final standings, ending a streak of three straight Championship 4 appearances.

But Hamlin has broadened his reach in recent years, expanding into team ownership with 23XI Racing – a collaborative effort with co-owner Michael Jordan that had its on-track debut in 2021. That team grew to a two-car outfit last year, with drivers Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace each scoring wins for the organization.

Hamlin said he anticipated a moment where he would transition to a full-time role on the ownership side, but that the decision on when to hang up his helmet would not be predicated on his involvement with 23XI.

“Well, there’ll be a time where my attention will be more needed as a team owner than a driver, but it’s going to be on my terms and when I want it to happen and when I think it needs to happen,” Hamlin said. “But I don’t think it … I don’t foresee ownership expediting my retirement. I think that my retirement will be a totally independent decision, regardless of where we’re at with the race team.”