Fans have frequently shown their dissatisfaction with Hamlin, especially after his public altercation with Chase Elliott in 2017. However, the demonstration on Sunday was especially loud and vocal.
The added intensity was likely the result of Hamlin’s move to shove then-race leader Kyle Larson up the track and into the wall on a restart with seven of 160 laps remaining.
Hamlin executed a strategic maneuver to secure the lead and successfully fended off Tyler Reddick until a caution on the final lap ensured his triumph.
The win was a big one for Hamlin – the 50th of his Cup career, seventh at Pocono and Toyota’s 600th victory across NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.
The 42-year-old native of Chesterfield, Va., said he wasn’t going to let the fan outcry diminish the significance of the moment.
“I’m at an age where I simply don’t care anymore. If I had another two decades ahead of me, I would understand,” Hamlin expressed following the race on Sunday. “Being a fan doesn’t earn me trophies. Relying on fandom doesn’t fulfill my responsibilities.”
“In my professional journey, I have experienced some significant instances where I became interested in individuals at a time when they were extremely popular, while I myself was not. However, I am content with this situation as the fans are deeply enthusiastic about the experiences they had.”
“If there were a significant number of Denny Hamlin fans, perhaps they would have a similar experience.”
Hamlin expressed his disappointment in not being able to connect with fans throughout his career.
“I arrived at this point through sheer dedication and traditional methods. I simply lack the charm, but that’s alright,” he expressed. “I suppose I’m just not one of those affable individuals, am I?”
“I am who I am. I exist. Strive to treat others with kindness, make ethical choices, and allow fans to support whomever they please. Even if they express themselves in various ways, it is acceptable.”
Race winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry
Photo by: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport Images
The competition on Sunday between Larson and the narrator became even more intriguing due to their close friendship outside of racing.
After the occurrence, Larson expressed that he wouldn’t allow the matter to destroy their friendship, but acknowledged his strong anger and believed it was justified.
Hamlin insisted that he did not think he had made any contact with Larson during the race, but he also believed that even if he had, it would not have made a difference in the outcome.
“I had to push myself to the limit to secure a victory. Was I willing to ease up and give him a significant advantage? Definitely not. Under no circumstances,” he stated. “I desired to compete alongside him because I had rightfully earned the opportunity to be by his side.”
“I don’t believe there was any physical contact. Based on my observation, I moved towards the middle lane, and afterwards, we were in very close proximity to each other. He encountered an aerodynamic issue which caused his car to lift off. That was the extent of it.”
“It is challenging to race in such a manner. There was definitely no intention behind it. In my opinion, the most effective approach to winning is to compete side by side. That was my expectation as we approached Turn 2.”