DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – I’d hate to be that guy that gets too high on wins. I mean I get as annoyed as anyone else when a Super Bowl ends and we start questioning whether player x, y or z are Hall of Famer’s. It’s an overreaction.
But, for NASCAR, their Super Bowl is the first race of the season. When we see a driver like the one who did win on Sunday celebrate, we have to question whether he’s Hall of Fame worthy.
Lets compare two drivers here. Driver No. 1 has 32 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins. Among those 32 are three Daytona 500 triumphs, two Brickyard 400’s, one Coca Cola 600 win and 3 Clash wins. Also, driver No. 1 has 163 top five finishes, 260 top 10’s 7,053 laps led and 16 poles.
Driver No. 2 has 32 career wins and among them are two Daytona 500 victories, two Southern 500’s, three Clashes, three Duels, the Bristol night race and others. He also has 143 top five’s, 236 top 10’s, 9,253 laps led and 30 poles.
The only difference between driver No. 1 and driver No. 2 is a season championship.
Driver No. 1 is Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett. Driver No. 2 is Denny Hamlin. If you look close, Hamlin’s stats are very similar to Jarrett’s. The only thing Hamlin is missing is a Brickyard 400 and Coca Cola 600 win and a season championship. He’s also only 38 years old and has plenty of time left in his racing career to get those.
So, is he a Hall of Famer today?
I’d say so.
By time his career is done, he should have better stats than Jarrett. He already has more laps led and poles and has equaled him in career wins. He only trails him by 20 in career top fives and 24 in top 10’s. Hamlin, has scored 25 top five finishes in the last two years combined. He’s had 20 or more top 10 finishes in a season in three of the last four years.
That’s something though that Hamlin says is crazy and that he doesn’t feel he should be compared to Jarrett.
“Wow, he’s (Jarrett) so much better than I am,” Hamlin said after winning his second Daytona 500 on Sunday. “Yeah, I don’t know. That’s amazing. Never really thought of it that way. Those are guys that, I mean, I idolized growing up. I shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as Dale Jarrett. It’s crazy that we have the stats that we do. I never would have thought it in the 14-year career that I’d have one Daytona 500 champion, I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d have 10 wins, I wouldn’t have dreamed anything that’s been accomplished. But certainly won’t take it for granted.”