Ex-Yankees manager Joe Girardi on how he became a NASCAR fan


Joe Girardi played 15 seasons in MLB and managed for another 14, but it’s not the only sport the former catcher has an interest in.

On the latest edition of “Kevin Harvick’s Happy Hour,” Girardi joined Kevin Harvick to talk NASCAR, and he even revealed who his favorite driver is.

“My favorite driver’s retired. I’m learning to like the new drivers because so many of the guys I cheered for are retired, and that happens. I like Denny Hamlin. He’s always in the mix, no matter what,” Girardi said. “That’s exciting to me because that’s a champion, a guy that’s always in the mix, but there’s so many good young drivers now that I just need to get to know. I didn’t really have to root for anyone else because I used to root for Kevin Harvick all the time, but now I got to find a new love.”

Hamlin is third in total points (292) and second in laps led this season (2,428). He has 53 career wins but is still seeking the evasive Cup Series championship.

Girardi finished his MLB career with 1,100 hits, a combined .267 batting average and one All-Star Game nod. He was part of three World Series teams with the New York Yankees (1996, 1998 and 1999) before embarking on a successful managerial career. Girardi first managed the Florida Marlins in 2006, winning National League Manager of the Year honors, though he was canned after the season.

Why Denny Hamlin is Joe Girardi’s favorite NASCAR driver

After a year away from the dugout, Girardi managed the Yankees from 2008-17, most notably winning the World Series in 2009 and making the playoffs six times. He then managed the Philadelphia Phillies from 2020-22.

Girardi credits former Yankees athletic trainer Gene Monahan for getting him into racing as a player.

“Gene took me to my first race in Rockingham, North Carolina, and then I continued to go with him a few [times] every year and I remember going down to Homestead. I remember going to the Daytona 500 with Gene, and we got up early that morning and drove over. And the race is about to start, and Gene’s walking right down between the cars, and I’m thinking ‘aren’t we going to get in trouble? Shouldn’t we get behind the wall? These guys got the cars started, but everyone loved Gene, and Gene just kinda did what Gene wanted to do. I’ve fallen in love with it,” Girardi said. 

“I tell everyone, unless you go to a race, you truly don’t understand how great it is. You have to go and watch the speed and the precision and just how exciting it is.”

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