Denny Hamlin wearing his racing gear and smiling.
Denny Hamlin at the track. Getty Images

NASCAR’s Denny Hamlin talks pickleball

DALLAS, TX – Pickleball has become America’s favorite downtime activity, even for professional NASCAR drivers.

Enter three-time Daytona 500 champion, Denny Hamlin, who has become quite the pickleball enthusiast when he isn't flying around tracks nationwide at remarkable speed.

“I love the competitiveness of pickleball. It’s a way for me to stay active and keep my body moving. I’m in my 40s now and I’ve hit a lot of walls in racing,” said Hamlin. “To keep my body moving is very important, and pickleball challenges that.”

Hamlin was introduced to pickleball by his fiancé, Jordan Fish, who has a real appreciation for the game and even played singles and mixed doubles in a PPA tournament last season in Charlotte, NC.

“She’s the one who got me into it. It’s certainly taken over this household by storm over the last year-and-a-half,” confirmed Hamlin.

The couple even converted the basketball court in their basement into a pickleball court.

“We play quite often together, but I don’t know if she really likes me as a partner because I’m so competitive. I think we’re better off when we play on different teams,” mentioned Hamlin with a laugh. “That’s what Jordan hates the most about me is that I’m a big trash talker.”

Racetrack action shot with Hamlin's car in the lead
Denny Hamlin on the race track. Getty Images
In addition to Hamlin’s incredible skill as a driver, he’s also one of the most polarizing figures in NASCAR. Known for his big personality and famous quote, “I beat your favorite driver,” it’s no surprise that his favorite thing about pickleball is the competitive atmosphere. 

With that in mind, does he bring that same persona and confidence from the track onto the pickleball court?

“I am one of those people that believes I’m pretty good, but if I talk trash, then I’m really good. It’s part of my superpower that I must have to get into the competition’s head,” explained Hamlin. "So yes, I am way more competitive and not afraid to stare you down after putting a point past you.”

Hamlin went on to recall a time when Fish challenged him to play one game without trash talking.

“I barely won in a game where I should have just smashed the other person. I said, ‘I don’t like this at all.’ I have to be able to talk trash or else I’m not as good and I'm not as confident,” he shared. “It’s a part of hyping myself up.”

Denny Hamlin celebrating a win standing with his race car
Denny Hamlin celebrates a victory. Getty Images

Hamlin has plenty of colleagues who enjoy picking up a paddle and going head-to-head. In fact, racetracks are building pickleball courts on their properties for the drivers to unwind after races.

“Drivers are playing on those courts until one o’clock in the morning,” he revealed. “We play quite a bit, and it certainly gets more and more competitive.”

As for Hamlin's rankings of the best pickleball players among his fellow drivers, a rather familiar name leads the pack.

Austin Dillon is probably at the top of the list. He’s competitive like I am, only more athletic and younger. He hasn’t had the two knee surgeries like I have and the two shoulder surgeries like I have,” said Hamlin. “He’s more gifted when it comes to that, but I still enjoy giving him a game. I can still compete with him.”

Dillion recently won the Pit Road Pickleball tournament at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

“There’s certainly a lot of drivers that play pickleball,” concluded Hamlin. “I’d love to see the crossover happen more and more.”