Fun racing and fund-raising
Hamlin returns to Southside to aid Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
BY WALT AMACKER
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Published Friday, June 1, 2007

THURSDAY - MAY 31, 2007
SOUTHSIDE SPEEDWAY
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The third time was the charm for Southside Speedway's race featuring NASCAR 2006 rookie of the year Denny Hamlin to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Originally planned for May 3, the event was postponed by rain. Then it was bumped to May 6 but had to be postponed again because Hamlin, in Richmond at the time for the Crown Royal 400, had to follow NASCAR's lead and run the following day when that race was rescheduled.

All of this is to say that Hamlin, a former Chesterfield resident and a strong supporter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, was determined to not disappoint the fans who had been turned away twice from seeing a home boy back on the track where his stock car racing career found its roots.

On his way to Dover, Del., for this week's Busch and NASCAR races, Hamlin found the time to stop by the Midlothian track and give it another shot.

And what a shot it was.

With a standing-room-only crowd of about 4,500 looking on, Hamlin didn't win the race. First place went to Southside regular Chris Hopkins. But he certainly won the hearts of the fans.

"It was great being out here again," Hamlin said. "Racing with these guys is the best. So many memories. And it was a great night for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, also."

Hamlin finished second to Hopkins, 1999 Grand Stock champion at Southside and a frequent high finisher in Late Models over the past few years.

Curtis Markham, Hamlin's spotter on the NASCAR circuit and a track champion at Southside in 1984 and 1986, pulled into victory lane just behind Hamlin in third place.

"This was a lot of fun tonight," Markham said. "These guys were great to run against. There was no bumping or banging . . . everybody respected everybody else. It was a good night. And Chris Hopkins was fun to watch. He did a great job getting the win."

Hopkins admitted he worked up a little bit of a sweat realizing he had Hamlin running on his tail for most of the race.

"Most definitely it was a challenge," Hopkins said. "He puts in a lot more laps on the weekends than we do, and he's one of the best and races with the best of the best. So we knew it was going to be a definite challenge.

"But it was a lot of fun. And I can assure you that this is going to be the highlight of my career," Hopkins said.

The 175-lap race started slowly and dragged through eight cautions in the first 100 laps. But once Hopkins found a solid groove on a high line, the only question was whether his car would hold together.

Hopkins has had more than a few times at Southside when his equipment has let him down when he was running well. But he says his No. 43 car this year is brand new, and it looks like he's found what he's been looking for. He started fourth, took over first place by Lap 7 and led the remainder of the race.

Josh Tapscott won the 20-lap MACKA race.


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