Denny Hamlin didn’t think about Dale Earnhardt Jr. after hitting the wall hard, wrecking his car and becoming dizzy on Thursday morning at Kansas Speedway.
But NASCAR certainly did.
So Hamlin, who said he “got his bell rung” in the accident on the newly paved and reconfigured track, was taken to the infield care center, examined and told to stay out of the car for an hour before a re-evaluation cleared him to resume racing.
Just last week, Earnhardt was sidelined for at least two weeks because of a concussion that had its roots in a crash during a tire test at Kansas Speedway on Aug. 29. Hamlin hit the wall at 202 mph and damaged the right front and right side of his Toyota.
“I can’t remember it happening before,” Hamlin said of being advised to report to the infield care center after driving a damaged car to the garage. “But, honestly, the severity of it, and the speeds that we were running, it’s probably the wise thing to do anyway.”
Hamlin, who is third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, didn’t believe NASCAR was reacting to Earnhardt’s concussion.
“They said they have re-evaluations all the time,” Hamlin said. “They re-evaluate with me each wreck through text messages to ask how you’re doing and everything. Simply because of the speed of the impact, I think they were just trying to be safe and asking me how I felt, and I was honest with them, and said that I was a little dizzy, so they said, ‘Well, just come back in an hour and make sure you’re OK.’
“A lot of it was my car wasn’t going to be ready for an hour anyway, so it just made sense to come back and just make sure we’re all good.”
Earlier this week, Hamlin told The Star that given his position in the championship race, if he had a concussion like Earnhardt had, he would hide the fact from NASCAR, something Jeff Gordon said he would also do.
“I don’t know that you’ll have drivers voluntarily step out of a car,” Hamlin said. “That will be the continued challenge that no matter how you feel … you’re just not going to want to step out of your car. (Earnhardt) was worried for himself and knew how he felt. He made the decision to pull himself out. I don’t think drivers will treat it any different. They’ll do the same things they’ve been doing.”
Hamlin did not blame the newly paved track for the accident.
“I just clipped the right rear (tire) on the outside wall going on corner entry,” Hamlin said, “and when I did, it just shot the car to the apron, and then I tried to correct and over-corrected and got into the outside wall.
“It was the first time I really had some dizziness after a hit. Usually, I’m sore or your jaw hurts from clinching your jaw … but this was the first time I really got dizzy. I feel fine now …”
Then Hamlin looked at the assemblage of reporters surrounding him.
“If Dale Jr.’s incident wouldn’t have happened, I don’t think any of ya’ll (reporters) would be here.”