News & Media

Charitable Hamlin in need of any kind of win

April 27, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Driver has lined up strong field of challengers in his Short Track Showdown

Denny Hamlin, who took the Chase for the 2010 Sprint Cup championship down to the Ford 400 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, is in the peculiar position -- eight races into the 2011 season -- of needing a victory.

Thursday night's fourth annual Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway has no bearing on the Sprint Cup points race. But since Hamlin's never won the event he hosts to benefit his Denny Hamlin Foundation, a Late Model Stock Car checkered flag would suit him just fine.

Proceeds from the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown benefit the Denny Hamlin Foundation, a 501 C (3) started to raise funds for individuals and families affected by cystic fibrosis. The foundation supports organizations like The Children's Hospital of Richmond, St. Jude Hospital and the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

"I need to figure out how to win, first," Hamlin said. "This [Sprint Cup] year's been a disaster and a win would go a long way. I don't care what series it's in at this point."

But a win won't be easy against a field that includes some of his toughest NASCAR competitors, including two-time Short Track Showdown winner and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, regular Showdown participant Tony Stewart and another JGR teammate, Joey Logano, as well as Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and crossover extreme sports star Travis Pastrana.

When you throw in some of the best LMSC racers in the two-state area, including defending race winner C.E. Falk III, multiple NASCAR national champion Philip Morris, former national champions Peyton Sellers and Greg Pursley, Eddie Johnson, Brandon Butler and the guy Hamlin tabs as the favorite, George Miedecke, he'll take any edge he can get.

"They're all pretty much trying to beat me," Hamlin, a former area LMSC standout, said. "I don't really have many connections left to Late Model Stock Car racing and I'm expecting it to be pretty fierce."

Hamlin might have gotten that edge, though, with a recent test day at the .750-mile Richmond showplace -- site of this weekend's Cup/Nationwide doubleheader -- for the cars that are ubiquitous around the Virginia-North Carolina short track circuit.

"Hopefully it'll pay huge dividends," Hamlin said. "We had to change our setup all around and it took us all day to get our car where we wanted it to be. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out for the guys who'll come on Thursday and get an hour of practice.

"I honestly don't think the Cup guys will have an advantage like people think they'll have. I think the regulars, the guys who run Late Models on a weekly basis, will have a hand up in this particular event."

The race was previously held at Southside Speedway, a third-mile Midlothian, Va., landmark where Hamlin cut his short-track racing teeth. But Southside shut down for this season. RIR and track president Doug Fritz stepped up.

The Short Track Showdown is a full day of practice, qualifying and racing that also features the K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100 which will be held before the Showdown. A bonus for every ticket holder, a 30-minute question-and-answer session at 4:30 p.m. ET, will include many of the Cup drivers.

"The plan is for this to be the biggest, and the best one yet," Hamlin said. "It started as a short track showdown -- a classic Saturday night show -- and it's a big deal for RIR to let us come back, because Late Models have only run here once before, in 1997, so it's a big deal for my event and to let Late Models come back.

"It's perfect because it's a great facility, we have more seats than we know what to do with and the fans are going to get two races in one night."

"This is a great partnership with our hometown driver, Denny Hamlin," RIR president Doug Fritz said. "We're excited to be the new home of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown and hope to help Denny grow this event into a premiere charity race."

In the end, Hamlin praised the competitors who are helping put on the show -- not only his NASCAR national series foes, but also the local racers, though the $51,550 purse also is an incentive.

"A lot of these guys race at local short tracks and this weekend they're racing for points and a championship," Hamlin said. "For them to come out and participate in it and put their car at risk is a pretty big deal and they're as big a part of this as anyone, even the Cup guys."

Tickets for Thursday are $25, with children age 12-and-under admitted free with a paying adult. For tickets or information call 866-455-7223.