By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by the Sports Xchange
LONG POND, Pa. -- Driver Denny Hamlin announced Friday at Pocono Raceway that he and his girlfriend, former Charlotte Bobcats cheerleader Jordan Fish, are expecting a child in January.
"It's been a long time coming, so it's going to be exciting to be a dad," Hamlin, 31, told reporters in Pocono's media center. "It's going to be a great experience. I'm really excited about it and just excited to be part of it.
"For my parents to have grandkids, it's all going to be good. Everything works great, things happened, and we're excited that the timing's going to be in January, since it's the offseason -- all that seems to be aligning perfectly for us."
Asked whether he and Fish had set a wedding date, Hamlin indicated there are no nuptials in his immediate future.
"Especially now that all of this is going on, you want to be patient and everything," Hamlin said. "I'm 31, so I consider myself pretty patient if I haven't been married yet. There's no reason to rush into it right now, especially with everything that's going on."
JEFF GORDON HONORED BY HEISMAN TRUST
Jeff Gordon is the seventh recipient of the Heisman Humanitarian Award, Heisman Trophy trustee Jim Corcoran announced Friday during a press conference that included Gordon and former Heisman Trophy winners George Rogers (1980, South Carolina) and Tim Brown (1987, Notre Dame).
Gordon is the first NASCAR driver to receive the award, which recognizes extraordinary achievement in charitable and humanitarian activities. The Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation has raised more than $11 million for children's causes.
Gordon joins Olympic Gold Medal speedskater Joey Cheek (2006), former New York Giants defensive end George Martin (2007), hockey great Pat LaFontaine (2008), women's soccer star Mia Hamm (2009), former Tampa Bay running back Warrick Dunn (2010), and former New York Jets defensive lineman Marty Lyons (2011) in receiving the award.
"Now that you're in the fraternity, we'll have to teach you the secret handshake," Brown told Gordon after the announcement.
"I feel so privileged to be a part of this sport, and I think a lot you probably had the same question -- Heisman, NASCAR, where's the tie?" said Gordon, who will receive the award in a formal presentation Dec. 10 at the 78th annual Heisman Memorial Trophy Dinner at the New York Marriott Marquis.
"But when you look at the humanitarian award and who the recipients have been, it comes from all walks of life and sports. So to be a part of this list is something that I never expected, and certainly that I'm very honored by."
MENARD TO BACKUP AFTER CRASH IN PRACTICE
With a few minutes left in Friday's first Sprint Cup practice session, Paul Menard clobbered the Turn 1 wall, damaging his car so severely that his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing team immediately rolled out a backup car.
"I think a radiator hose blew off," said Menard, who was unhurt. "I went to hit the brakes and there was a bunch of smoke. It filled the cockpit, and it just wouldn't stop. It was a hard hit, but I'm OK."
Menard hadn't planned to do a mock qualifying run in the first practice, preferring not to post a high speed in the session to guarantee an early draw in Saturday's time trials. Qualifying order is set from slowest first to fastest last, based on top speeds in first practice.
"We weren't going to do a qualifying run, because I think we wanted to go out early to qualify," Menard said. "The car was driving pretty good, and we were making little gains on it -- all for naught."
You've heard of staying in Major League Baseball long enough to get a cup of coffee? Well, John Wes Townley's Sprint Cup debut didn't last long enough to take a sip.
Townley, scheduled to make his first Cup start Sunday, was replaced in the No. 32 Ford after wrecking at the exit of Pocono's Tunnel Turn on his first lap around the track, according to a story posted on sbnation.com.
Camping World Truck Series driver Jason White will be behind the wheel of the No. 32, which has a guaranteed starting spot in the Pennsylvania 400 because of its position in the top 35 in owner points.