The Rock wants Denny Hamlin to fully embrace NASCAR heel role

Dewayne Johnson will give the command to start engines on Monday

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In pro wrestling vernacular, Dewayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson just put over NASCAR star Denny Hamlin in a major way.

Speaking to the media on Sunday prior to the now postponed Daytona 500, Johnson was asked if he sees any similarities between himself and Hamlin, who has embraced being the villain of his industry, and could get booed out of the building even if he wins on Monday night.

Johnson says he’s very aware of Hamlin and his persona and loves what playing the heel allows you to contribute to any industry.

“Being the villain is the greatest thing in the world,” said Johnson, who has successfully played both the heel and babyface over the years in World Wrestling Entertainment. “It truly is in my world of professional wrestling. I was aware of Denny and getting booed and I’m also impressed with how he has embraced it.

“I feel like everyone wants to be the good guy or good girl. Everyone wants to be loved and cheered, considered the hero, which is great and natural, human psychology and desire.

“But I have felt in my career and through my experience that I’ve been very fortunate, knock on wood, to have the rare air when presented with an opportunity, grabbing it never letting it go, when you get to be a great bad guy.”

Johnson explained to the media, for those who didn’t know, that he has come back to WWE this month and has embraced a heel persona during a storyline with real life cousin Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins.

The Rock said that playing a great bad guy also comes from a place of truth.

“This is my advice to Denny,” Johnson said. “Not only do you embrace it but take the opportunity to do and say a lot of things that people can’t. A lot of people wish they could say these things but they don’t so you have to let me and Denny do the talking and get the boos.”

NASCAR: Cup Practice
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Johnson was scheduled to give the command to fire engines and while a lot of the luminaries couldn’t stick around overnight into Monday, he still intends to.

He wasn’t going to miss the Daytona 500, his first, and he says he made up his mind, even knowing the forecast, when he drove back the track on Saturday night.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Johnson said. “I went to the gym at midnight and drove by the speedway and all the lights were on and just immediately felt the energy. There’s a word I like to use called ‘mana,’ and it means ‘spirit’ and it’s ‘power’ and its ever present and it comes from here and I could feel the mana as I was driving by the Speedway.

“What I hope to experience is really what I have already been experiencing, which is just this incredible electric energy.”

Johnson says he sees a lot of parallels between NASCAR and WWE. He recognizes the Daytona 500 as the WrestleMania of motorsports.

“The greatest part about being a performer is that you get to connect with the audience,” Johnson said. “You get to connect with the fans. And I think my math is kind of shady but I think it’s about 150,000 people, which is really cool.

“I want to experience that and I want to experience that tomorrow. That’s why I didn’t want to leave. I had to stay so I could experience that.”

He also has one goal in delivering the most famous words in motorsports.

“When I say ‘drivers, start your engines,’ I don’t want to screw it up,” Johnson said. “I want it to sound halfway cool when I do it but I also want to make sure that 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 and season off.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter. 

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