Despite the unfortunate circumstances of missing this past weekend’s race at Fontana for the Auto Club 400, Denny Hamlin is still eligible for gaining entry into the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he can win a race due to the fact he had qualified the #11 FedEx Express Toyota on Friday, March 21 for the event. If Hamlin cannot race at Martinsville for the STP 500 this weekend, NASCAR would likely waive the rule that a driver who qualifies for the Chase based on wins must attempt to qualify or race every event, for medical reasons.
Hamlin went to the infield care center himself about an hour before the race, as his crew chief Darian Grubb told the Motor Racing Network.
“For him to go to the infield care center, for one thing, it must have been pretty bad for him,” said Grubb. “Then it got to where he couldn’t see and was having trouble with vision in his left eye with all the pressure that was going on. At that point, NASCAR did some testing and knew he could not follow the finger going by his eyes as he should have been so they knew at that point, they weren’t going to let him go. It wasn’t just a headache; it was more serious than that. He was actually losing vision in his eye.”
Joe Gibbs Racing President, J.D. Gibbs said before the race, that the team initially thought it was a sinus infection that was causing Hamlin’s headaches and vision problems. But Grubb then said it was apparent, it may be more serious.
Hamlin while at the driver’s meeting two hours prior to the race wore dark sunglasses indoors.
“That’s why they’re doing the CT scan now. He had them (referring to the sunglasses) on the whole time,” said Grubb. “And was just holding his head, it hurt him so bad. You could tell by the look on his face he was really worried.”
Hamlin was evaluated and released from a local hospital on Sunday after having undergone a CT scan to see what may be causing the severe headaches and vision problems his JGR team confirmed on Sunday. In a statement JGR said, Hamlin will be further evaluated this week in Charlotte.
Hamlin was seventh in the NASCAR point’s standings before Sunday’s race but after sitting out dropped to 11th.
After the season last year, Hamlin had hopes to turn his hard work during the off season into another run for the championship. And the new NASCAR Chase Grid will help with his determination to keep that hope for a title run alive.
Grubb said after the race, “It’s going to be touch and go for right now obviously, so we’re just going to wait and see what happens.” Hopefully we’ll get some good news this afternoon.”
With or without Hamlin the race will go on next weekend, but as for now his team will prepare and ‘go forward assuming Denny will be back next week’ as Grubb said.