[media-credit name=”Gary Buchanan onpitroad.com” align=”alignright” width=”218″][/media-credit]Although Denny Hamlin’s mother Mary Lou spends almost every weekend at the track, working her son’s merchandise hauler and interacting with the fans, she cherished a very special moment this past weekend at Pocono.
“Denny and Jordan are going to be parents and we’re really looking forward to it,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “This is our first biological grandchild. We have an adopted son that has three and two step-daughters that have two. “
“They’ll know the end of August what they are having.”
While beaming with pride, she also recognizes that this is another major milestone in her son’s life and one that means he continues to forge his own path in life.
“That was one of the things that was really difficult for his dad and I,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “We were so used to spending every weekend together with Denny.”
“We did go karts since he was seven and then Denny went right into the stock cars every weekend,” Mary Lou Hamlin continued. “That is the hardest thing was not seeing or talking to him all the time every weekend.”
“I have to look at it like empty nesting, like parents when their kids go away to college.”
Mary Lou Hamlin admitted that her family has always been close, having come from a family with five other brothers and sisters. Hamlin’s mother was a single parent, raising them all as a tight knit group.
“We were always really, really close,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “Denny’s grandmother passed away when she was 91 years old, but one thing she always looked forward to and kept her going was watching Denny on Sundays.”
“I’m so glad that she got to see him make it to this level,” Hamlin continued. “Every Sunday, she would wear her Denny T-shirt and her No. 11 socks.”
“It was so funny because wherever she would go, would always ask people if they were NASCAR fans and if they knew Denny Hamlin,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “She, needless to say, was very, very proud.”
In addition to her close-knit family and her time with her son, Mary Lou Hamlin also cherishes the time that she gets to spend with Denny’s fans.
“I’m very fortunate,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “By doing the merchandise trailer, I get to meet his fans, which is great.”
“I also run his fan club so that connects me to his fan base,” Hamlin continued. “It’s still surreal to see people wearing T-shirts on with Denny’s face on it.”
“I enjoy the fan club, especially reading all the letters,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “It’s tough sometimes to gather everything together that Denny needs to sign. It takes up a lot of time.”
“But what’s good is that I can do it when I want to during the day,” Hamlin continued. “I can run my errands, go by FedEx and things like that. Then at 2:00 in the morning, I can be putting together all the packets.”
While Hamlin cherishes every moment at the track, she admits that it is a grueling lifestyle. But she also has NASCAR racing in her blood, which has made all the sacrifices along the way in Denny’s career worthwhile.
“People think it is so great but it is a lot of work,” Hamlin said. “It’s a lot of walking and a lot of heat and the challenges of getting in and out of the track.”
“But we have always been NASCAR fans and that’s how we got into it,” Hamlin continued. “From the time Denny was little, he would sit on his dad’s lap on Sunday afternoons and watch the NASCAR races.”
“When Denny was seven, a friend of ours suggested that he race go karts, “Hamlin said. “His dad knew from that moment on that he definitely had something.”
“But we also realized that there are a thousand other Denny Hamlins out there that never get the chance,” Hamlin continued. “Denny happened to be at the right place at the right time. He had good friends that helped him along the way to get him there.”
“We had to make sacrifices along the way, however, our other children were grown and we only had Denny,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “So, by the time he had gotten into stock cars and we had run out of money, we decided since all of our other children were grown, nobody’s going to have this burden but us.”
“So, we decided to put all the chips in because we knew that he had something,” Hamlin continued. “We hoped that he got the opportunity and he did.”
Mary Lou Hamlin acknowledged that not only does her family help her each and every day in the NASCAR adventure but she also has a great network of support with other drivers’ moms, even if they don’t get to see each other quite as often as she would like.
“Unfortunately, we don’t get to see each other very often,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “Mother’s Day is when we all get to see each other at the race track.”
“However, when Denny first got into racing and I was looking into starting a fan club, I did spend time with Tony Stewart’s mom Pam,” Hamlin continued. “She told me her ins and outs and what to do.”
“Kurt and Kyle Busch’s mom and I sometimes go to lunch and shoot the bull, which is nice too.”
One of the challenges of also being a NASCAR mom is finding that balance in life that so many mothers find difficult, especially when it comes to taking care of herself and not just her racing obligations.
“It’s hard because the four days that I’m home, I have to make sure I have all my orders done,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “So, I’ll work 24 hours if I have to to get all the orders done before I leave.”
“It is hard living out of a suitcase because you empty it out just to pack it back up again,” Hamlin continued. “But it gives me a break and I keep thinking that I’m not going to be able to do this for a long, long time.”
“So, I want to take advantage of it and see different places, which I really enjoy.”
Whether with Denny on race weekend, in the merchandise hauler, or interacting with fans, Mary Lou Hamlin has cherished every moment of her son’s racing career. But she also has one bit of advice for the dad to be.
“Cherish the time that you have because it goes by so fast,” Mary Lou Hamlin said. “Then when they’re grown, you look back on the conversations that you’ve had and they mean so much more.”