by Matt Lincoln
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There's no way Denny Hamlin could've reached the cusp of a championship on his own. But three people in particular were integral in the Chesterfield native getting to where he is today - his parents, and the man who got him his big break.
Dennis and Mary Lou Hamlin both claim to never be nervous when their son races. But at Homestead neither one of them were calm as Hamlin was close to winning a championship.
The Hamlin family had to give a lot of themselves for Denny to get where he is today. Through the years, they sold their classic cars, refinanced their home multiple times and drained their savings. But each time when they thought they were at the end of their rope - someone stepped up to help.
In 2002, it was Jim Dean, a fellow car owner. He was waiting in line behind Hamlin and overheard him saying that he was about to race his last race because his family had run out of money. Dean gave him a chance at a spot, and Denny instantly was too successful for Dean not to use.
Less than two years later, Joe Gibbs Racing was looking to start a late-modified racing team, and contracted Dean to build them some cars. Hamlin was set to deliver one of those cars. It just so happened that the man he had to deliver the cars to was a former driver at Southside Speedway, and another Central Virginia native.
Curtis Markham made it big way before Denny. The Glen Allen native grew up on the short tracks of Southside, South Boston and Langley. In the mid-90's he ran the Busch Series and had a cup of coffee with the Cup Series. By the mid-2000's he was working with Gibbs.
Hamlin begged Markham for a tryout, and the fellow Virginian told him to try out the new car that he was bringing in. Markham was impressed, he ran it up the line, and the rest is history.