Race Weekend Central

Denny Hamlin Had ‘So Much Fun’ in Stafford, SRX Debut

STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. – From driving through the field to working on the car himself, Denny Hamlin meant business from the moment the Camping World SRX Series teams arrived at Stafford Motor Speedway.

One of four drivers making his SRX debut along with Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick, Hamlin picked his way through the field to score the win in Heat 1, and he crossed the line in seventh after starting dead last in Heat 2. The heat results put him on the outside pole for the main event, and Hamlin was clear to the lead after 10 laps.

Hamlin first held off a challenge from Bowyer, but as the laps ticked down, the No. 11 car got a rearview mirror full of Ryan Newman. Newman won the SRX race at Stafford a year ago, but he had to go to a backup car in Thursday’s (July 13) main event. Newman was closing in on Hamlin in a hurry, but Mother Nature brought an early end to the comeback and the race as Hamlin claimed the debut victory.

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With raindrops, heavy winds and lightning off in the distance. ESPN was not able to interview Hamlin or any other driver after the race. Hamlin did, however, pose for photographers just minutes before the skies opened up.

Hamlin was looking to join SRX last year, and by his own admission, he had a great time in his debut weekend with the series.

“You know, this is a lot of fun,” Hamlin said. “From a driver’s standpoint, knowing that you’re in the same equipment as everyone else, they don’t let you do any changes to these cars that not every car has.

“It really puts an emphasis — I mean, there’s no spotters or anything, a lot of the contact you saw is that we just couldn’t see the people around us. Man, this was so much fun. Short track racing, this is the grassroots racing that we hope to showcase.”

Sixth in the afternoon practice session, Hamlin got help from six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, 2021 Stafford SRX winner and Connecticut-native Doug Coby prior to the heat races.

“[Coby] really helped me with the [racing] line to be honest with you,” Hamlin. “I didn’t realize how far off-line I was in practice until he was like, ‘No, no, you need to be here.’ I got it there in the race and was way faster.”

Prior to making it big in NASCAR, Hamlin drove late models at local short tracks. The SRX event marked Hamlin’s first-ever race at Stafford, and he said that it reminded him of one particular track back at home in Virginia.

“It reminds me a lot of Langley [Speedway], to be honest with you,” Hamlin said. “This one was really similar to Langley, just kind of how it’s a late apex type of racetrack where you want to set yourself up, [and] it’s got an apron you can use. For me, it was very similar to Langley, I drove it very similar to how I drove late models. Once I got out front, I was managing tires and brakes.”

And in late model fashion, Hamlin himself was working with the SRX crews to set up the car for the main event after two chaotic heat races.

“There was damage on the car,” Hamlin said. “It’s not like a NASCAR team where everyone’s got a specific role, so I got to get my hands dirty, I got to chip in a bit because we were pressed for time.”

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One such incident in the heat race came between Hamlin and Paul Tracy, as Hamlin was at one point run into the grass while battling Tracy for position. The two talked it over and shared a laugh while getting ready for the finale.

“Yeah, [Paul Tracy] had a great comment,” Hamlin said. “He was like, ‘People think we’re p—y-footing these things’ and was like, ‘No, that ain’t the case.'”

The first Stafford race marked Hamlin’s only SRX start of the season. Will he return in the future? Maybe, maybe not, but he certainly enjoys being undefeated at the moment.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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