Three years ago, Denny Hamlin was a regular driver at local tracks with designs on becoming the next Virginia resident to make an impact in NASCAR's top series.
Now, he's an emerging star in the Sprint Cup Series.
In a weekend he described as "perfect" even before he started from the pole in Saturday night's Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Hamlin kicked off the Denny Hamlin Foundation at Southside Speedway on Thursday night, raising $50,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, won the Sprint Cup pole and won Friday's night's Nationwide Series event.
His growing celebrity, Hamlin said, has opened his eyes to opportunities to help others. Hospital visits have shown him how much it helps sick children.
"When you get to go there and see firsthand either the struggles or the success stories of these kids, it definitely gives you a need to give back, and now that I have the chance to do that, it's no better time to start it than now," he said a few hours before the race.
"Ultimately, it gives you a great feeling, and it's the right thing to do."
Hamlin presented an oversized check to the CF Foundation on Saturday.