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Denny Hamlin dedicates 2019 to team's late co-founder J.D. Gibbs

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Denny Hamlin is dedicating this NASCAR season to the memory of Joe Gibbs Racing co-founder J.D. Gibbs.

The eldest son of team owner and Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs died in January at age 49. J.D. Gibbs discovered Hamlin at a late-model test at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina in the early 2000s.

Hamlin's charity is donating $111 to the J.D. Gibbs Legacy Fund for each lap he leads in the No. 11 Toyota in 2019. Hamlin also hopes to dedicate a victory to Gibbs, preferably at Daytona.

"It'll be super important," Hamlin said. "Obviously, everyone knows how important he was for me and my career and everything he did for us. Certainly having success on track will be crucial for that. Now that I pledged $111 for every lap we lead, it's going to be important for me to get up front and be up front often."

Hamlin's career high for laps lead is 1,380 in 2009.

Gibbs died from complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease. It was revealed in 2015 that he was dealing with "conditions related to brain function." He was serving as president of JGR at the time.