NASCAR is getting to be a lot like the Super Bowl when it comes to products releasing compelling commercial spots during race broadcasts. Often the ads will include a NASCAR driver in the promo, and in the case of the new spot for Toyota Racing, it was actually inspired by one of the drivers.
The commercial, titled “Vibrations,” aired during the Feb. 18 running of the Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin is featured prominently, but he may be upstaged a bit by the young man who stars in the spot.
If you missed the commercial, a young boy with a hearing impairment is having his first NASCAR experience at Chicagoland Speedway, where Denny is announced to be in the pole position. Unable to hear the incredible volume the speeding cars create, the boy puts his hands on the rail of the bleachers where he can feel the intense vibration. After the race, he stands in line for Denny’s autograph and signs to the driver, “I want to race you someday.” Denny answers, in sign language, “I hope so.”
Fast forward to days later when the boy’s parents present him with a go-kart, nurturing his passion for racing and possibly cultivating a future champion.
And fans went wild for it.
As it turns out, that commercial isn’t far from the truth. At a press conference on race day, Denny attempted to tell the media about how his own humble start was depicted in the commercial before he became too emotional to speak.
Choking back tears, Denny managed to say, “It’s really how I grew up,” before he could no longer speak and Toyota Racing executive Ed Laukes took over.
“For those of you that don’t know, Denny has a picture of he and Joe Gibbs. And actually, when he was driving go-karts, he went up to Joe during an autograph session and said to Joe, ‘I”m going to race for you someday.’ And that actually was the model for this spot and where it came from,” Ed said.
A composed Denny went on to say that his passion for racing began when he went to his first race at Richmond at the age of five. “When I went for my first race, that’s how I got hooked,” he said. “I felt the speed, I smelled the tires and the fuel and I felt the passion for the racing, and I just immediately wanted to be a racecar driver.”
Denny and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace were neck-in-neck for the second and third places in the Daytona 500, with Bubba squeaking past his fellow driver in an exciting photo finish. It was almost like the photo finish that found Denny inching past Martin Truex Jr. at Daytona in 2016 for the victory.
But, the real winner on Sunday may have been young Luca, the commercial’s star, who was able to spend a little time with Denny in the pit before the race. While we aren’t certain how extensive Denny’s signing skills are, the two racers found a way to communicate beautifully.