Hamlin, Gibbs And Gabehart Feted At Champion’s Breakfast In Daytona

Denny Hamlin and all crew members took turns autographing winning car. [Joe Jennings Photo]

Denny Hamlin and all crew members took turns autographing winning car. [Joe Jennings Photo]

By Joe Jennings

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2019) – Denny Hamlin, the 2019 Daytona 500 champion, was honored on Monday during the Champion’s Breakfast in Daytona International Speedway’s Bill France Room.

Hamlin was joined by his car owner Joe Gibbs and his first-year crew chief Chris Gabehart. Gibbs now has three DAYTONA 500 championships as an owner; Hamlin also won in 2016 and in 1993, Dale Jarrett gave Gibbs his first victory in NASCAR’s biggest event.

“This is certainly validating, for sure,” Hamlin said. “But there’s certainly a lot I want to accomplish and I have plenty of time to do it.”

Overnight, Hamlin said he received dozens of congratulatory messages from friends, including basketball legends Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan.

The post-race celebration Sunday night was significant – but subdued. The team went to a local Steak ’n Shake, continuing a team tradition that started in 1993 when Jarrett’s victory was also the first overall for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. And once again, they were noticed and joined by a number of race fans.

For JGR, the DAYTONA 500 was a tribute to the late J.D. Gibbs, Joe Gibbs’ son, who passed away last month to a neurological disorder. J.D. Gibbs was the talent scout who recruited Hamlin into the JGR organization.

In addition to a press conference and a number of one-on-one media interviews on Monday morning, Hamlin also said goodbye to his winning car for a year. His No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry began a one-year residency in the DIS Ticket and Tours Building.

A year from now, Hamlin hopes Joe Gibbs will give him the car for display at his home alongside his 2016 winning car.

Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile also made several championship presentations during the breakfast: Hamlin received a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Watch and black leather Champion’s Jacket, with jackets also given to Gibbs and Gabehart. Gibbs received a third Harley J. Earl Champion Owner Trophy. And Gabehart received the Cannonball Baker Trophy named for NASCAR’s first commissioner and given annually to the champion crew chief.

Wile and Hamlin also unveiled the new logo for the 2020 DAYTONA 500, scheduled for Feb. 16. And on Sunday night after his victory, Hamlin placed one foot and both hands in cement and signed his name on the square that will be added to the DAYTONA 500 Champions’ Walk of Fame outside the Ticket and Tours Building.

Monday’s breakfast included interviews with local and national media outlets, but Hamlin’s championship visibility was just cranking up. Tuesday, he will head to New York for interviews on FS1, Live! With Kelly and Ryan plus SiriusXM, among others. He will then visit the New York Stock Exchange to ring the closing bell.

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