Denny Hamlin reflects on Kobe Bryant and being a #GirlDad

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Defending Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin never met the late Kobe Bryant, but he can certainly relate to him, particularly with each of them being the father of daughters (Bryant had four and Hamlin has two).

Hamlin stopped by to chat with Nate Ryan for next week’s NASCAR on NBC Podcast and spoke about how he learned that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, along with seven others, were killed this past Sunday when the helicopter they were all riding in crashed into a hillside northwest of Los Angeles.

“Like most people, probably the way you shouldn’t,” Hamlin replied when asked how he first heard of the tragic news. “I logged on social media literally like 50 seconds after TMZ posted it. And of course the link was broken because either people were all clicking on it or (TMZ) was told to take it down.

“Immediately, I messaged my friends and sent them a link, and said, ‘This can’t be true.’ We waited for like 15 minutes and no other news outlet is saying anything because this was so fresh. Until I saw it on the local news in California, then I was like, ‘OK, this is real.’

“My first thought when they said five (people were killed), I said, ‘Oh no, it’s the whole (Bryant) family, right?’ It’s terrible it involved him and his daughter and whatnot. And when you think about it from his family standpoint, his wife and kids, gosh, it’s hard enough to lose your husband but what about your kid, too. Or you just lost a sister and your dad. I can’t remember a death that united so many people over these last 48 hours.”

Since Bryant’s death, the hashtag “#GirlDad” has become somewhat of a rallying cry of support to the Bryant family, particularly from fathers who also are so proud of their own daughters and how much they mean to them.

“I could totally see Kobe doing that,” Hamlin said. “I’ve never met Kobe but you’d seen enough interviews and heard him talk about people enough and I agree with him that I’m a girl dad. I love my daughters. They’re the ones that are going to take care of you.

“Your sons, they’re going to be like, ‘Ah, dad, whatever.’ You see women, when they grow up, always have that special bond with their dad. I have it with my kids for sure and it’s certainly special to have girls.”

Hamlin then added with a chuckle, “Even though, admittedly, I’ve wanted boys every time, I’m so happy with the girls I have. They’ve just been such great kids.”

Hamlin has two daughters: Taylor, who just turned 7 last week, and 2-year-old Molly.

Hamlin talked about Taylor and last week’s birthday party – and how she kind of reminds him of someone he knows quite well:

“She’s so funny and so full of energy,” Hamlin said of Taylor. “She’s not shy about anything which makes it always fun for kids that age and aren’t shy. Didn’t they have a show ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things’? She does.

“She likes to have the attention on her. I was at her birthday dinner one night with my brothers and sisters and parents and she’s running around and is so excited. I said, ‘This is so impossible for someone to have this much energy.’

“My brothers and sisters said, ‘What are you talking about? You were worse than her.’ Molly is such the opposite, totally low-key, totally independent. She has so much energy. I look back at old videos of me and, yeah, I was the same way. Something clicked where I became more reserved and more quiet and whatnot. Molly resembles the later version of me, for sure.”

Hear the rest of the NASCAR On NBC Podcast with Hamlin and Ryan when it is released early next week wherever you get podcasts. Hamlin also discusses his 2019 Daytona 500 victory, his new iRacing team with Michael Jordan and the 2020 free agency class.