MIDLOTHIAN, VA (WWBT) - Before Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin was on NASCAR’s biggest stage, he was racing around Southside Speedway in Midlothian.
Hamlin, a Chesterfield native, captured his second Daytona 500 championship in the last four years Sunday.
“It is absolutely thrilling to see how he has progressed over the years,” Southside Speedway owner Sue Clements said. “He has always desired to race at the track when he was just a tiny little 3-year-old. His daddy would use to tell me he would hope the gates would stay open so he could get Denny out here on the racetrack."
At first, Clements didn’t see Hamlin race when he was really young, but as he grew, she saw his races more and more. She says Hamlin’s good character and that of his family stood out during his time at the venue.
Hamlin isn’t the first NASCAR star to pass through the Midlothian gem of short-track racing. Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison also logged some laps on the track.
“It was Bobby Allison who actually named the track as the toughest track in the south,” Clements said. “If you could get around this track, you could drive anywhere is what Bobby used to say. So we’ve had a lot of NASCAR drivers that have come through here."
Clements said she believes some of NASCAR’s future stars are already driving at Southside Speedway.
Hamlin’s Daytona win came after surviving a crash-filled final 20 laps of regulation. He took the victory on a green-white-checkered overtime period to follow up his winless 2018 season by entering Victory Lane in the 2019 season’s inaugural race. Additionally, the win guarantees Hamlin spot in the Chase for the Monster Cup in the fall.
Hamlin’s other Daytona 500 win came in 2016 when he nipped Martin Truex Jr. in the closest finish in the race’s history.
Southside Speedway is celebrating Hamlin’s win with a special ticket package that includes a ticket to the April 13 Toyota Owners 400 and DC Solar FanGrounds pass for $85.