Denny Hamlin’s paint scheme for Darlington Raceway will be a familiar sight to family and friends who watched him start working his way up the ranks more than 20 years ago.
The Chesterfield, Virginia, native revealed a special throwback scheme for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sept. 2 (NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) from the NASCAR studios in Charlotte — a ride that is a spitting image of his first mini stock car he drove in 1997 at Langley Speedway and Southside Speedway.
“Oddly enough, I’ve always driven a purple-and-white No. 11, whether it was go-karts or race cars,” Hamlin told NASCAR.com during the live stream event. “… For me, this is our family car. This is the very first race car I ever owned and it’s special to me that FedEx is able to give us this canvas to throw back to my very first race car.”
The scheme is a match made in stock car heaven. Ironically enough, the purple paint and orange trim he ran on his mini stock back in the day is similar to the purple-and-orange trim on his Joe Gibbs Racing Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car, long before the FedEx sponsorship.
“We made the paint schemes back then very simple because we planned on crashing a lot,” said Hamlin. “So you wanted to have it pretty basic back then with your paint scheme.
“We just gravitated toward the purple,” he added. “One of my dad’s best friends was a painter back then and he’s like, ‘hey man, I got this beautiful color that you should try.’ For no particular reason we thought, yeah, the purple looks good. We did that and it had the orange stripe on it. It’s so crazy how it all worked out and I get to race this car again.”
The simplicity of the paint scheme is a symbol of Hamlin’s grassroots, along with the mismatched fire suit and helmet he will sport during the Labor Day weekend. Both hearken back to his humble beginnings in racing where the family business, Chesterfield Trailer and Hitch, ran by his father Dennis, funded the race team. The business logo will be prominently featured on the throwback scheme in honor of the journey.
“We did the best with what we could, for sure,” said Hamlin. “It’s very exciting to see this car, the real thing and the replica of everything I have sitting in my garage at home. It’s identical. The font and everything is perfect. Man, this car is very special.”
The original car made its rounds long after Hamlin made it to NASCAR’s highest level. But one day someone contacted his mother, Mary Lou, asking if he had any interest purchasing the car back.
“At the time, I didn’t appreciate the history or anything of it, so I was like I don’t even know where I’m going to put it,” Hamlin said. “I had a very moderate house at the time and no garage space, so I didn’t know what I was going to do with the thing. So I said no, I really don’t want it so tell them to go ahead and sell it.”
The car Hamlin raced to track championships at Langley and Southside now has a special spot at house, one with much more room for display. But that wouldn’t be the case if it wasn’t for team owner Joe Gibbs.
“Everyone knows I have the best boss in the world,” Hamlin said. “They sold it (the car), but they sold it to Joe Gibbs. He bought the car, restored it for me and gave it back to me as a gift.”
Hamlin will have the opportunity to add to the legacy of the paint scheme if he can defend his 2017 Darlington triumph and break into Victory Lane once again.
Hamlin currently is 10th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings with two regular-season races to go. He can clinch a playoff spot at Darlington with a win or if there is a repeat winner.
This story will be updated.