Redskins fans were intrigued to walk past No. 11’s NASCAR vehicle as they entered the Bon Secours Training Center, but it was driver Denny Hamlin who was in awe on Tuesday.
The 2016 Daytona 500 winner stopped by his favorite team’s practice in Richmond, Va., on Tuesday, before the Redskins were set to take off for New England for Thursday’s preseason opener.
While Hamlin is busy tearing up the race track, he enjoyed spending a day to act as a fan instead of a competitor.
“This is fun for me to see this,” Hamlin said on "Redskins Nation." “I got to go to a [Virginia Tech] Hokies camp once and I’ve been to a Skins camp once, never here in Richmond. They’re always fun because you get to see athletes that just do extraordinary things."
Growing up 20 minutes from Richmond in Chesterfield County, Va., Hamlin was raised as a Redskins fan. His family took him to home games during the season in addition to following his favorite sport of race car driving.
After former head coach Joe Gibbs announced that he was starting his own NASCAR team, Hamlin thought that would be “a perfect scenario” for him to achieve his dream of becoming a professional driver while competing for one of his favorite football coaches. When the 37-year-old had the chance to meet the three-time Super Bowl winning coach, he expressed his desires to one day race for him.
“I met him actually in an autograph line a few years later [after he started his team], got his autograph,” Hamlin recalled. “He took a picture, which that picture is now in his office of me as a young kid, and I told him at that time I would drive for him one day. And 10 years later, I was signed to Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s unbelievable. It’s crazy how everything worked out and I’m in the situation I’m in.”
Hamlin got to witness firsthand the Redskins make their final on-field preparations before Thursday’s preseason opener, having the chance to meet head coach Jay Gruden afterwards. Quarterback Alex Smith then met with Hamlin, the first rookie to qualify for the NASCAR playoffs, for a few minutes surrounded by cameramen. Smith walked over to Hamlin’s race car, where the two posed for a photo and exchanged uniforms.
When Hamlin was watching practice, it wasn’t the quarterback’s throws that he was most intrigued by, however. It was the wide receivers.
“The most interesting position I like to watch is really the receivers and watching their footwork and how they cut to different routes and everything,” Hamlins said. “It’s interesting to me and to see how technical they are and it’s 1-on-1, you vs. the defender and the cornerback and who can get the ball first."
The Washington Redskins conducted their eleventh day of training camp practice Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
Although Hamlin will be wrapping up the NASCAR season when the Redskins get back to football, he is still eager to see how his team will perform. He is confident in Gruden’s abilities to get the team moving in a positive direction and claims that the future is bright if veterans can stay healthy.
Overall, Hamlin is thrilled about the new additions the Redskins brought in and thinks that could be the difference-maker for success in 2018.
“I’m excited about them,” Hamlin said. “I love Gruden. I think he’s a great coach. He’s going to get the best out of the guys that we have. I look forward to everyone from last year getting healthy and coming back. And of course, the addition to Alex Smith and seeing how that all pans out.”