Hamlin Released From Hospital
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on March 23, 2014 | 7:43 P.M. EST
Denny Hamlin missed Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway because of vision problems. (Photo: Getty Images)
FONTANA, Calif. - Denny Hamlin has been released from a California hospital and will be evaluated later this week in Charlotte, according to a statement Sunday night from Joe Gibbs Racing.
No other information was provided in the release from JGR.
Hamlin missed Sunday’s Auto Club 400 because of a vision problem that sent him to a local hospital for tests.
Hamlin was replaced by Sam Hornish Jr. less than an hour before the start of the race because a sinus infection that caused vision issues for Hamlin. Hornish finished 17th.
Crew chief Darian Grubb said that Hamlin’s condition did not improve as the day progressed.
“The last I’d heard his vision was getting worse and the pain was getting worse,’’ Grubb said. “We’re just going to wait and see what happens. For him to go to the infield care center (before the race) was one thing. It must have been pretty bad. It got to where he couldn’t see and having trouble with the vision in his left eye because of the pressure and everything that was going on. At that point, NASCAR did some testing and he could not follow the finger going by his eyes as he should have been. They weren’t going to let him go.
“It’s not just a headache. It’s a lot more serious than that. He was actually losing vision his eye.’’
Hamlin was at the drivers meeting two hours before the race and wore dark sunglasses in it even though it was inside.
“He held his head and said his head was hurting so bad,’’ Grubb said. “He was having trouble seeing. You could tell the worry in his face, he was really upset.’’
Hornish was available because he was at Auto Club Speedway as a standby driver for Matt Kenseth, whose wife is expecting to give birth soon. Hornish will drive in seven Nationwide races for Joe Gibbs Racing later this season. That’s why the team was using him as a backup driver for Kenseth.
About an hour before the race started, Hornish figured his services wouldn’t be needed with Kenseth, so he relaxed.
“I’ll hang out for a while, watch some of the race and then listen to the rest of it in on the radio ... beat everybody to the plane,’’ he said of his plans.
Hornish said he was meeting with former boss Roger Penske when he received a phone call and then a text telling him to get to the team’s hauler as soon as possible.
Soon, Hornish was getting ready to compete in his first Cup race since last spring at Kansas Speedway.
He got some quick advice from teammate and eventual winner Kyle Busch and then it was time to climb in the car and start the engine.
“I asked Kyle some questions about the car and what to expect,’’ Hornish said. “That gave me a little bit of a head start on a couple things that saved me some time in the first 50 laps. Throughout the next 100 laps, it was learning what I wanted out of the car. These cars have a lot of things that are really different from what they were last year. The small adjustments seemed to be making real big differences in balance, going from loose to tight.’’
Early in event, Grubb told Hornish about an adjustment that could be made in the car and told Hornish what colored switch to flip for the adjustment since Hornish was unfamiliar with the car’s dashboard.
“Trying to coach him with switches and things was interesting because I had to remember a lot of those things myself,’’ Grubb said.
Those problems were solved.
Hornish worked his way through the field and was running near the top 10 late when he had contact with another car on the restart and lost ground.
On a day he didn’t expect to be driving, Hornish finished with a top-20 result.