Denny Hamlin throws back to his very first race car for the upcoming Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
Hamlin will run the paint scheme of his first race car from back in 1997
Denny Hamlin will throwback to a 4 cylinder race car for the 2018 Darlington Raceway throwback event. This was the first car that Hamlin ever drove. He races the machine at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia and Southside Speedway in Chesterfield, Virginia.
“Throwin’ back to my past. Back to the 90’s for me. This is what I was doing in 1997 was driving this car,” Denny Hamlin says of his 2018 throwback.
“It’s amazing that I was racing a purple and white #11 back then. I’m racing a purple and white #11 right now. It’s crazy how it all worked out. It’s pretty amazing.”
Everything matches the old 4 cylinder from 1997. The paint, the sponsors, the number, the driver and the fonts. On the side of the door, sits a new logo. But, it’s not new at all, that was Hamlin’s first sponsor, Chesterfield Trailer and Hitch. That’s the family operation that funded Denny’s career in the beginning before he showed up for the first time at Daytona and drove to victory lane.
The car itself was very basic. However, that was done with purpose. Given it was his first car, they wanted something that could be easy to replace. So, when a fender or two suffered damage, they didn’t have to replace a graphics kit as well.
“This is our family car,” Hamlin states. “FedEx doing this without me kinda knowing is awesome. It’s a big statement from them, to me.”
“I threw out some ideas.” Hamlin said of the 2018 throwback drafts. He said to FedEx, ” ‘What are we going to do?’ They just kinda went silent on me for awhile.’ ”
Why #11? “Bill Elliott was always my favorite driver. We always had the #11 for that reason.”
Why Purple? “One of my Dad’s best friends was a painter back then. He’s like, ‘Hey man, I got this beautiful color that you should try.’ For no particular reason. We’re like, ‘Yeah, the purple looks good.’ ”
“A lot of people from the outside aren’t going to understand what it is. It’s not going to be something they saw on TV Sunday. But, there’s people in Virginia that saw that car go around on the short tracks, they’ll understand.”
In addition, Hamlin will have a helmet that matches his 1997 helmet as well.
“It’s us three, as a family that car belongs to. As a team, we did it. It’s a family deal,” father, Dennis Hamlin stated of the car.
“It’s going to be very emotional, mom, Mary Lou Hamlin said.
The original car
Denny Hamlin has the original car back in his garage. But, he had to reclaim it years ago.
“Everyone knows, I have the best boss in the world, Joe Gibbs … We sold that car. Everyone knows, it was a great race car and we won a lot of races with it. But, we sold it.”
“Once I got into the cup series, that car had made it’s rounds. They actually contacted my mom, ‘Hey, do you think Denny wants this car back?’ At the time, I didn’t appreciate the history or anything. I was like, ‘I really don’t. I don’t even know where I’m going to put it.’ ”
“At the time, I’ve got this very moderate house. I’ve got no garage space. I said, ‘No, I really don’t want it. Tell them to go ahead and sell it.’ ”
“They sold it. But, they sold it to Joe Gibbs. He bought the car, restored it for me and gave it back to me as a gift.”
2018 throwback photos
2018 throwback reveal
Related: Ryan Newman’s 2017 throwback