LOUDON, N.H. – If Denny Hamlin wins Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), he’ll have to face his fear.
Not on the race track, mind you. In Victory Lane.
As part of its post-race ceremony, the Magic Mile awards the winning driver a gigantic live lobster. When Hamlin won at New Hampshire in July, he recoiled when crew chief Mike Wheeler tried to hand him the 22-pound prize.
Understand that Hamlin hates lobsters. He can’t eat if someone is consuming a lobster at a nearby table. And though he finally posed for a few photos with the giant lobster after the summer race, it was not an experience the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota relished.
So even if Hamlin wins the second race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and punches his ticket to the next round, he’ll visit Victory Lane with a distinct sense of dread, even though the lobster’s claws are held firmly shut by large rubber bands.
“Yeah, I’ve never really liked them to begin with,” Hamlin said. “I don’t like the taste of them. I don’t — I just don’t like looking at them. They have pincers, really, so I don’t like anything that’s ugly and has pincers.
“I don’t know — it’s just a big scorpion in my mind. I try to stay away from them and, yeah, I’ve had some interesting moments with them for sure that I don’t care to recall or bring back up.”
Of course, those who might want to play a practical joke on Hamlin know how to devise a prank that’s guaranteed to be effective.
A lobster once appeared mysteriously in the toilet in Hamlin’s motor coach.
“I’ve had one in my toilet before, yes,” Hamlin said. “It was disturbing.”
Coincidentally, Monday happens to be National Lobster Day.
Hamlin won’t be celebrating.