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Denny Hamlin to honor J.D. Gibbs during upcoming Daytona 500

Defending Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin is the longest tenured racer at Joe Gibbs to never win a NASCAR championship. What are his title chances this year?

When Denny Hamlin starts the 59th Daytona 500 on Feb. 26, not only will he attempt to defend his win in last year’s Great American Race, he’ll also have a good friend along for the ride.

Hamlin announced on Twitter that he will honor J.D. Gibbs, son of team owner Joe Gibbs, by putting J.D.’s initials on the driver’s side door of his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry.

Although most fans know him as Denny, Hamlin’s initials are actually J.D., as well – for James Dennis – as he explains in the tweet/video he posted Tuesday.

For nearly two years, J.D. Gibbs has been undergoing treatment for speech and processing issues that are part of his overall brain function. The issues reportedly stem from J.D. Gibbs’ time playing football in college.

It was the younger Gibbs who discovered Hamlin and encouraged the elder Gibbs to sign the young Virginia driver to a contract.

The rest is history – and now Hamlin wants to make some more history for his good friend on Feb. 26.

Follow @JerryBonkowski