Hamlin extends his race weekend
A soaked Southside forces CFF benefit to move to Sunday
Published Friday, May 4, 2007

FRIDAY - MAY 4, 2007
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Shortly after the Queen of England paid her respects to Thomas Jefferson's digs yesterday, NASCAR's crown prince Denny Hamlin was supposed to take to the asphalt at Southside Speedway last night in a 175-lap Late Model Sportsman race to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

But Mother Nature threw a curve ball.

Rain had pretty much turned the Midlothian track into a giant bird bath by late yesterday afternoon and track owner and promoter Sue Clements postponed the event. But with Hamlin in town for the whole weekend, he readily agreed to come back and do it all again Sunday afternoon.

"Denny was very gracious about the whole thing," Clements said. "So we're going to do it all over again at 3 p.m. Sunday."

Hamlin, in town for the Nextel Cup and Busch races at Richmond International Speedway Friday and Saturday, will be at the track where he raced so many times in his early days with his friend and spotter Curtis Markham racing in the same field.

Neither driver is a stranger to Southside. Markham won the track's Late Model Stock title in 1984 and 1986, and Hamlin won the Mini Stock championship and rookie of the year honors in 1997. He also drove Mini Stocks at Langley Speedway that year and took the title there as well.

Earlier this week, Hamlin and Markham were running practice laps and making adjustments to their cars while getting a feel for the track.

Markham has been spotting for Hamlin since he began driving the Truck circuit in 2004, and has followed through as his spotter as he has moved on up to the Busch and Nextel Cup series.

"We've got a great relationship," Markham said. "Even though he still reminds me from time to time that he used to come to Southside and watch me race while he was still in diapers."

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is a cause which both Markham and Hamlin have been supporting for many years. Markham was a supporter of the organization from his early days on the Busch circuit, having held numerous fund raisers including holding a golf tournament for the group.

"It's a charity that's very close to my heart, and we do whatever we can to support it," Markham said. "Things like this race are something we can do to help make a difference."

Hamlin will be driving a Chevy Monte Carlo that is owned by Ron Roberts, and Markham will behind the wheel of another Monte Carlo owned by Greg Holt. The field of drivers will comprise current LMS drivers who regularly compete at Southside.

Joe Gibbs Racing has donated a number of items that will be raffled off including helmets, car parts, T-shirts and hats autographed by team members Hamlin, J.J. Yeley and Tony Stewart, with all proceeds going to the CFF.

Gates will open for drivers Sunday at 9:30 a.m. with practice beginning at 11. Tickets will go on sale and spectator gates will open at 12:30 p.m. Qualifying will begin soon after the spectator gates open.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, and $5 for children 7-12. Also on hand will be the country rock band Mozely Rose to provide pre-race entertainment.

Contact staff writer Walt Amacker at wamacker@timesdispatch.com or (804) 649-6554.