On Thursday, Denny Hamlin and the other 15 drivers in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs met with the media for NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Media Day in Charlotte, North Carolina. While Hamlin would have loved for the conversation to be about his chances at scoring his first career NASCAR Cup Series title, instead, the 42-year-old fielded an onslaught of questions about the 2024 season.
“I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire,” Hamlin said when asked if his contract negotiations have been weighing heavy on him.
Friday marks the beginning of September, and Denny Hamlin’s future still remains in limbo. Where will he drive in 2024? What manufacturer will he drive for? It all seems to still be on the table, but Hamlin explained that he has no new updates for anyone.
“I don’t have anything new to announce,” Hamlin said to the swarm of media. “I’m not trying to leak one word, either, one way or another. It’s on to Darlington.”
The questions will continue to intensify the longer that Hamlin and JGR go without striking a deal, but Hamlin remains consistent in saying that he unquestionably wants to return to the only team he’s ever driven for in the NASCAR Cup Series next season.
“100%. Yes,” Hamlin stated when asked point-blank if he wants to return to JGR in 2024.
According to Hamlin, the hold-up is still trying to get all of the contracts done, those contracts include the manufacturer deal for Hamlin’s 23XI Racing team, which fields the No. 23 and No. 45 cars that are driven by Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.
However, the hold up doesn’t appear to be with Hamlin’s longtime primary sponsorship partner FedEx, as Hamlin says the company will return to JGR next season, regardless of what happens with his contract talks.
“The relationship with FedEx continues to be strong, and they will be on the car next year — on the No. 11 car,” Hamlin said.
Recently, rumors have swirled that Hamlin could take 23XI Racing to another manufacturer, and the most consistent rumor has been Ford. Whether 23XI Racing swaps manufacturers or not, Hamlin says he has options, outside of Joe Gibbs Racing to return behind the wheel for next season.
“See, that’s a play on words. That’s not nice. Why would you do that,” Hamlin said when asked if he had explored other opportunities for next season. “I have a race team. I always have options.”
Hamlin continued by saying, “As a race car driver, you’re at the mercy of whoever will hire you. I will hire me.”
While Hamlin joked about hiring himself, he did say that 23XI Racing most likely isn’t ready to field three full-time cars in 2024, unless, “an Apocolypse hits.” With Reddick, and Wallace making the Playoffs this season for 23XI, you would expect Hamlin to have to either pilot a third car for 23XI Racing or run for another team, which fields cars with the same manufacturer as 23XI Racing next season.
Will that team be Joe Gibbs Racing? Time will tell. But the longer this situation drags on, the more, and more it feels similar to the Kyle Busch exit at Joe Gibbs Racing a season ago.