Denny Hamlin is the latest NASCAR Cup Series driver to voice his intentions of running Super Late Model’s biggest race. In an interview with NBC Sports’ Dustin Long, the three-time and defending Daytona 500 winner mentioned he would like to compete in the 2021 Snowball Derby, and will take part in Super Late Model races throughout the year to prepare for December’s event.
Hamlin has been heavily involved in Late Model Stock Cars, which are very popular in his home state of Virginia, during his career. He also hosted the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown for eight years. However, his Super Late Model experience is short, with his only start coming in a PASS North race at Autodrome Chaudiere in Quebec back in 2015.
Although it was in the virtual world (iRacing), Hamlin did join many of the nation’s top Super Late Model drivers while competing in select Rowdy Energy Super Select Series races on Speed51.com during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, he hopes take his talents to the real world and make Super Late Model starts throughout the year to get ready for the Snowball Derby at the end of 2021.
“I know personally I’m going to go and start racing more Late Models,” Hamlin 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.”
Six current full-time drivers in NASCAR’s top-three series have won the Snowball Derby in the past. They include Kyle Busch (2009, 2017), Chase Elliott (2011, 2015), Erik Jones (2012-2013), Noah Gragson (2018), John Hunter Nemecheck (2014) and Christian Eckes (2016).
Hamlin has tuned in to the Snowball Derby in recent years, having seen fellow Cup Series racers like Joe Gibs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, defending series champion Chase Elliott and Corey LaJoie compete in the marquee event, traditionally held a few weeks after the NASCAR season ends.
After spending the past few years taking in the event from home, the itch became too strong not to scratch for Hamlin.
“It’s the part of the year where you start to get the bug again. 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.’”
The formation of 23XI Racing with NBA legend Michael Jordan helped make the Snowball Derby a possibility for this season. Now, all he will need is a Super Late Model to wheel.
“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.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images for NASCAR