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May 9, 2024

Denny Hamlin’s lap-leading streak: On the road of chasing legends

Denny Hamlin looks on
Chris Graythen
Getty Images

It’s no rare sight to spot Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota running up front on Sundays. In fact, Hamlin has led laps at every race dating back to the 2023 Round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — that’s 16 consecutive races leading at least one lap. Consistency has proven to be king in stock-car racing, and Hamlin joins a short list of the sport’s elite drivers who have amassed lengthy streaks.

RELATED: Darlington weekend schedule

Hamlin recently tied Lee Petty for 12th on the all-time wins list and is now one off from tying Rusty Wallace. He continues to rack up consecutive races with laps led, and yet again, he finds himself in the company of legends who have left an indelible mark on the sport — Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Cale Yarborough.

Leading laps isn’t just about speed. It’s a mix of a driver’s skill, team strategy and plenty of knowledge on how to handle the ever-changing race conditions. Hamlin has been a force on all tracks, leaving his competitors in the rearview mirror whether it’s a short-track showdown or a high-speed battle on a superspeedway or intermediate course.

What sets Hamlin apart from the current field of drivers is his ability to consistently find his way to the front of the pack. Currently, his 606 laps led in 2024 ranks second among active drivers. Through 12 races, he’s already spent 2,680 laps running in the top 10 (first) and 1,880 laps running in the top five (second). Plus, his season average running position is up to a series-best 7.8 after Kansas. Meaning that more often than not, Hamlin has routinely found ways to maintain a strong position throughout races, willing to fend off challenges from rival drivers and overcome obstacles that come his way.

With the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on tap this Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN Radio, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio), it wouldn’t be a shock to see Hamlin extend the streak to 17. He’s a four-time winner at the track “Too Tough to Tame” and has led laps in 17 of 23 races at Darlington, not to mention he swept the first two stages there last September in the Southern 500. As he continues to rewrite the record books one lap at a time, there’s no telling how far Hamlin can go.

DriverSteak StartStreak EndStreak Length
Bobby AllisonSept., 6 1971 at Darlington Raceway Oct. 22, 1972 at Rockingham Speedway39
Cale YarboroughFeb. 29, 1976 at Rockingham Speedway Oct. 10, 1976 at Charlotte Motor Speedway 25
Darrell WaltripJuly 11, 1981 at Nashville Fairgrounds May 16, 1982 at Dover Motor Speedway25
Cale YarboroughJune 12, 1977 at Riverside International SpeedwayMarch 19, 1978 at Atlanta Motor Speedway22
Richard PettyJune 4, 1972 at Dover Motor Speedway Feb. 25, 1973 at Richmond Raceway 22
Dale Earnhardt Aug. 17, 1986 at Michigan International Speedway May 3, 1987 at Talladega Superspeedway 20
Dale Earnhardt June 28, 1987 at Michigan International Speedway March, 20 1988 at Atlanta Motor Speedway 20
Jeff GordonMay 28, 1995 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct. 22, 1995 at Rockingham Speedway 19
David PearsonJune 1, 1969 at Macon Speedway Aug. 21, 1969 at South Boston Speedway 17
Geoff BodineMay 18, 1986 at Dover Motor Speedway Oct. 5, 1986 at Charlotte Motor Speedway 17
Kyle BuschJuly 8, 2017 at Kentucky Speedway Nov. 5, 2017 at Texas Motor Speedway17
Richard PettyMay 11, 1974 at Nashville Fairgrounds Sept. 22, 1974 at North Wilkesboro Speedway 16
Cale Yarborough April 9, 1978 at Darlington RacewaySept. 4, 1978 at Darlington Raceway 16
Darell WaltripJuly 4, 1980 at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 11, 1981 at Riverside International Speedway16
Denny HamlinOct. 15, 2023 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway May, 5, 2024 Kansas Speedway (still active)16