Three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin says he wants to run more short track events this year, culminating with the Snowball Derby in December.
Hamlin, who raced Late Models before moving to NASCAR and Joe Gibbs Racing, knows the challenge he faces.
“I know personally I’m going to go and start racing more Late Models (in 2021),” he told NBC Sports. “It’s been a few years since I’ve done that. Really not Late Models like I’m used to running. It’s more on the Super Late Models.
“I have maybe one race under my belt in my entire life in a Super Late Model. The end goal being is to compete in the Snowball Derby. I’m going to spend the year kind of working through that process and trying to figure out what techniques I need to have and learning and getting better. That way I can continue to give back to the short-track community.”
As for why the Snowball Derby, Hamlin said it’s simple. He’s a racer.
“It’s the part of the year where you start to get the bug again,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “Your season ends in the first couple of weeks in November and you enjoy some time off.
“It just seems like that first week in December you’re like, ‘All right, now what?’ and the Snowball comes on and you’re like ‘Gosh, I wish I was running the race.’
“I say that year after year. It’s something that I want to try to compete in. Now that I have my own race team (with 23XI Racing), I’ve got the equipment. I just need a car at this point. It makes it a little bit easier.”
The Snowball Derby, held at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, routinely attracts NASCAR drivers. The event, held annually since 1968, has a winner’s list that includes NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip (1976), Kyle Busch (2009, ‘17), Chase Elliott (2011, ’15) and Erik Jones (2012, ’13), among others.
The 54th Snowball Derby is scheduled to be run Dec. 5.
Could this a signal by Hamlin that he plans to now run a few late model races in ’21 a sign that at the end of this year there will be a change in the racing career of Hamlin? Up until this time Hamlin has not publicly noted that he would love to race a few races outside of the Joe Gibbs Racing banner, a la Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, and Kyle Larson.
From everything that can be ascertained, it appears that Hamlin’s contract with Joe Gibbs Racing ends at the end of this year (2021). If Hamlin’s contract is indeed amendable at the end of this season, it makes sense that Hamlin may decide to move over to his new partnership with Michael Jordan, 23XI Racing, in a second hot rod to begin the ’22 season. Additionally, if that may come to fruition, Hamlin departing JGR for 23XI Racing beginning in ’22, then it makes perfect sense to lean on JGR now to allow Hamlin to do some more “outside” racing this year!
As this NASCAR season unfolds and proceeds into the Silly Season portion of the year, do not be surprised to see that my prognostication may come to fruition regarding Hamlin leaving JGR and heading to 23XI Racing in ’22!
I’m just sayin’…………….!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!