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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson ‘Impressed’ by Denny Hamlin Leaning into NASCAR’s Villain Role

Dwayne Johnson The Rock Daytona 500 grand marshal NASCAR Cup Series Denny Hamlin

Photo Credit: Craig White,

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is set to serve as the Grand Marshal for the Daytona 500 on Monday afternoon. The actor, entertainer, athlete and entrepeneuer met with the media on Sunday, ahead of Monday’s postponed race to talk about a number of items.

The most interesting topic was Johnson, who recently pulled off a heel turn in the WWE, praising Denny Hamlin and his ability to lean into the role of villain in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“Being the villain is the greatest thing in the world. It truly is,” Johnson said. “Now, in my world of professional wrestling, and I was aware of Denny and getting booed, and also I think impressed in how he has embraced it.

“I also feel like Everybody wants to be the good guy. And everyone wants to be the good guy, the good girl, and everyone wants to be loved and cheered and considered the hero. Which is great. And it’s natural. It’s human psychology and desire. But I have felt in my career and through my experience, I’ve been very fortunate, knock on wood, I’ve felt that the rare air is when you have the opportunity, you grab it by the throat and you don’t let it go, and that is the opportunity to be a great bad guy.”

While being the villain comes with its disadvantages, such as the fanbase wanting to rip you apart, Johnson says the advantage is that villains get to say and do things that the babyfaces wish they could say and do.

“One of the great things that being a great bad guy and a great villain offers, and this is my advice to Denny, is not only do you embrace it, but also you get the opportunity to say and do a lot of things that other people can’t. A lot of people wish they can, but they don’t. So you don’t have to, let me and Denny do the talking and get the boos.”

And to his point, Johnson is spot on. Whether it’s been taunting the fans on the track P.A. system after he wins, or declaring publicly that he would help the car he owned before he helped one of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates last season, or even stating that he would be going into business for himself more at Daytona this year, Hamlin has been certainly generating heat.

It’s always good to have a black hat in NASCAR, and Hamlin, the odds-on favorite to win the Daytona 500, is wearing it well.

The Rock Excited to be Grand Marshal of The Great American Race

While The Rock respects NASCAR’s current villain, he also respect the Daytona 500, and the responsibilities that come with being the Grand Marshal for the event.

Despite persistent rains forcing the Daytona 500 from 2:30 PM ET on Sunday to 4:00 PM ET on Monday, Johnson stated that he will not bail on being the Grand Marshal.

“I would say the most exciting thing I have going on right now is being the Grand Marshal for the Daytona 500. It’s awesome. When you are a sports fan, something like this really becomes an honor and a priviledge,” Johnson said. “I’m a lucky guy to be at this position in my career to have been asked to be the Grand Marshal and say those four iconic words.”

About those four iconic words, Johnson says the plan is simply not to fumble his way through them. But with how skilled he has been on the mic in the WWE, I believe Johnson will be just fine.

“My plan for the iconic words ‘drivers start your engines’ is just not to screw it up,” Johnson quipped. “That’s all, and maybe sound halfway cool while doing it. But also, I really want to make sure my words and energy is a reflection, a respectful reflection of what the drivers need from me and what the fans need to kick the race off and to certainly kick the season off. That’s what I want.”

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