The rumors of Denny Hamlin starting a NASCAR Cup Series team with Bubba Wallace as a leading candidate to drive remains a talking point throughout the garage.
For his part, Hamlin did not so much as offer a denial on Saturday when asked during a Zoom teleconference if he had inquired over the Germain Racing ownership charter than might become available in the coming weeks.
Germain has said that its No. 13 may have to shut down after losing primary sponsor GEICO for the 2021 season.
"I can't comment on any of that stuff," Hamlin said. "You know, if you have anything about tonight's race, that I can answer. I don't have anything to announce. We're not talking about any of that tonight."
Wallace confirmed last week that he would leave Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the season. The league’s only full-time Black driver has a growing cache of sponsorship money, but it’s not immediately clear where he will take it.
Hamlin and Wallace are both represented by ProSport Management representative Rod Morkowitz.
Soon to be 40 years old, Hamlin has begun to openly discuss his future beyond driving the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 -- the only car he has ever driven at the highest level since his debut in 2006.
Hamlin has said he has no immediate plans to retire and expects to race with Gibbs for the remainder of his career.
With that said, Hamlin also has an eye towards the future, be it ownership or an executive role somewhere in the sport.
"I still don’t know how long my driving career will go," Hamlin said. "Obviously, it will go well beyond the near future. I’m concentrating on what I’m doing on the race track right now, but certainly wouldn’t mind positioning myself on that side. There are several different sides of management or what not that I would like to be a part of when it comes to NASCAR and the sport itself. It has to be the right opportunity and if it’s not the right opportunity, the right time then I won’t do it. Everything just has to line up perfectly for me to even remotely consider it."
The pandemic has exacerbated the already suffering NASCAR Cup Series ownership policy. Leavine Family Racing has been forced to sell its charter and close at the end of the year due to a lack of sponsorship. Germain followed a few weeks later. There are concerns about the future of the Petty team without Wallace and the sponsorship he has brought over the past year.
The industry is optimistic that the debut of the Next-Gen car in 2022 will bring a new era of cost containment and competition.
"I do believe that the model will hopefully get better," Hamlin said. "Do I think it’s fixed? No, I think there is still some work to be done to make the model a viable business. You want a business that everyone wants to be a part of, not the ones that are fleeting. Certainly, I think NASCAR is trying it’s best to make the teams a little more healthy. I think that outlook towards the future is what’s interesting to me."
Previous NASCAR regulations have seemingly prevented a driver from one team owning a stake in another. In other words, Hamlin could not own a stake in what is now Germain or any other team while driving for Gibbs.
Dale Earnhardt was grandfathered in at the time he owned Dale Earnhardt Inc. while driving for Richard Childress Racing.
NASCAR rules also limit organizations to just four cars, although teams skirt these rules by offering satellite arrangements.
During a state of the sport teleconference on Sept. 2, NASCAR president Steve Phelps said the charter rules could allow a driver for one team to own a stake in another as long as it wasn’t an obvious attempt to have a five-car team.
"So my understanding of what that is, is that there are opportunities for a driver in a four-car team to participate in ownership as long as we determine, and it's proven, that it essentially is not a fifth team for that particular team," Phelps said. "Whether it's cost related or whatever it is, that it would be a front for the fifth team. That's why the rule was written the way it was written. So, there is an opportunity for a driver in a four-car team to have an ownership stake. The short answer is yes, but they would need to abide by our guidelines -- that we would be satisfied that it's not just a shell for a fifth team."
NASCAR regulations currently allow a team like Gibbs to service satellite teams like Leavine Family Racing or Furniture Row Racing. In each of those agreements, Leavine and Furniture Row purchased chassis and engines from the much larger organization.