Denny Hamlin has been medically cleared and will race this weekend for the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, after a shard of metal was removed from his eye. NASCAR has received an official confirmation from Hamlin’s doctors that he has been medically cleared to return to his regular racing activities.
‘Hamlin first visited the infield car center at Auto Club Speedway Saturday night bothered with an irritation in his eye,’ the Joe Gibbs Racing statement said. ‘He returned to the infield care center again on Sunday morning because his condition had worsened. It was at this time that it was determined by the medical team onsite that he would not be allowed to race due to a sinus infection that was impacting his vision. The doctors at the infield care center referred him to the local hospital for further evaluation.’
Hamlin’s crew chief Darian Grubb told the Motor Racing Network at Fontana that the headaches Hamlin was experiencing were so severe that he was ‘holding his head, it hurt him so bad. You could tell by the look on his face he was really worried.’ The pressure on his left eye caused Hamlin to fail a test where a person visually follows a finger moving back and forth horizontally. It was at that point Hamlin was medically removed from competition.
Hamlin missed the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, because of blurred vision that was first believed to have been the result of a sinus infection actually had a shard of metal that was found in his eye at the hospital. Immediately upon removal of the shard, Hamlin’s condition had improved.
‘A CT scan did not find any other complications that lead to the conclusion that the metal was the true source of the vision problems experienced by Hamlin. He was then released from the hospital Sunday afternoon and was given the approval of the doctor to fly home,’ the JGR statement relayed.
Hamlin went on Monday to be evaluated by a doctor in the Charlotte area, where he was sent home to rest and was given instructions to return Wednesday, March 26 for a follow-up examination. Subsequently Hamlin’s doctors provided the necessary approval for his return to racing this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Hamlin had dropped from seventh to 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings after having missed the race on Sunday at Fontana.
If Hamlin wins a race or remains high enough in the points to qualify, he will be eligible to make the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. NASCAR confirmed Sunday that Hamlin will be covered by the medical exemption that was added to the new Chase rules that applies to a driver who is not able to compete in all 26 pre-Chase races.
Hamlin, a native Virginian, has an average finish of 8.1 at Martinsville Speedway; he has four victories in 16 starts at the half-mile track, making it one of his best tracks.