(NEXSTAR) – Just a few short months ago, Powerball players were vying for a world record-setting $2.04 billion jackpot. Though only one ticket – claimed by Edwin Castro last month – matched all six numbers to win the jackpot, a NASCAR driver says he was one number away from claiming the prize before it surpassed $2 billion.
During an episode of his podcast, “Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin,” the driver for Joe Gibbs Racing explained that while in Arizona last year, he scored a big payout off the track.
The weekend before the November 7 drawing for the massive Powerball jackpot, NASCAR was racing at Phoenix Raceway in Arizona. By then, Hamlin had already been booted from championship contention after Ross Chastain pulled ahead of him in points thanks to a now-banned video-game move. He and his team had also received tragic news – Coy Gibbs, the son of Joe Gibbs and co-owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, died the night before Sunday’s race.
Hamlin went on to finish eighth in the race.
But, hours before the race, Hamlin tweeted that he had hit “5 of 6 on my first Powerball purchase.” He recounted the experience in Monday’s episode of his podcast.
Hamlin explained that, as he was leaving the race track one day that weekend, he had to stop for gas and texted the people he was staying with to let them know he’d be back late. They responded, telling him to buy a lottery ticket.
When he stopped at the gas station in Scottsdale and went inside, Hamlin said there were dozens of people standing in line at the lottery kiosk waiting to buy tickets.
“I was going to get $300 in tickets. That’s just what I had on me and what I was going to get,” he continued. The problem? Hamlin, who had never played Powerball before, wasn’t sure what to do at the kiosk when it became his turn. After trying to figure it out, he instead purchased his tickets at the register.
After securing the tickets – 150 drawings, since each drawing costs $2 – Hamlin said he went to dinner and was there when the drawing happened. When he checked the tickets later, he realized the first drawing he received matched four white numbers and the Powerball, missing just one to land the record-setting jackpot.
Matching those five numbers still results in a $50,000 payout. But, as Hamlin noted, had he opted for the Power Play – the rookie Powerball player said the gas station clerk didn’t offer him the option – his payout could have been much larger. When a player opts for Power Play, if they match the red Powerball number, their non-jackpot prize can grow by as much as 10 times the standard payout.
“I guess that, if you hit the Powerball number, which I did, the Powerball that hit that night was 20, which I had, whatever your winnings are, it triples,” Hamlin explained. Though Hamlin doesn’t explain it in his podcast, his ticket matches the numbers drawn Saturday, November 5, before the jackpot surpassed $2 billion.
Though he missed the jackpot and the Power Play, Hamlin’s prize was still large enough that he had to either mail in a form or claim it in person. He described visiting an Arizona lottery office while “wearing my hat really low because I don’t want to be seen” while other lottery players were claiming smaller prizes.
Hamlin, a three-time winner of the Daytona 500, was quickly recognized.
“I just kind of felt bad that I was cashing out this big ticket when likely, there were these people that were lifers in there that had never hit it,” he explained.
The odds of matching four white numbers and the red Powerball are 1 in 913,129.18, according to the game’s website.
Under Arizona law, the state lottery waits 90 days after the prize has been awarded to release the names of people like Hamlin, who win between $600 and $100,000. Arizona winners who receive $100,000 or more can have their names withheld from the public permanently.
Arizona Lottery didn’t immediately respond to Nexstar’s request for information regarding Hamlin’s win.