Denny Hamlin believes that he can withstand the physical pain of tonight’s Sprint Cup event at Darlington Raceway, which will be his first full-distance race since suffering a fractured vertebrae in a last-lap crash back in March at Auto Club Speedway.
But the mental challenge will still be a daunting one for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who started last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway before giving way early to relief driver Brian Vickers.
“I’ll be able to make it physically, but it’s a matter of whether I can keep my mind engaged through whatever maybe physical pains I have towards the end to keep our finishes good and, obviously, have a chance to win,” said Hamlin, who starts sixth for tonight’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.
With a narrow racing groove that runs primarily up against the wall and a surface that’s regaining its traditional abrasiveness following a 2005 repaving, the 1.366-mile oval in the South Carolina sand hills is taxing enough for drivers that are fully healthy, let alone one that’s still working his way back to form.
But Hamlin is intent on gutting out the entire 500 miles tonight, and truly beginning his long-shot quest to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Virginia native is currently 31st in the standings and will need to not only break into the Top 20 but win at least one race to give himself a chance at making the Chase as a wild card.
Hamlin has never missed the Chase in his seven-year Cup career.
“We didn’t get that much [points] last week, so it’s going to be all on my shoulders to make the run towards the Chase,” he said. “We fell back an additional three spots last week in the points, so we have a huge, huge hole that we’ve got to dig out of. But there’s nothing that wins can’t fix. That’s the bottom line.
“If we put ourselves in position and win a race here and there — more than likely if we win a couple of races — then we’re going to be Top 20 in points, I would think.”
MotoGP star Valentino Rossi has been discharged from hospital after suffering injuries in a motorcross accident earlier this week.
Nine-time motorcycling world champion Rossi was diagnosed with “mild thoracic and abdominal trauma” after the accident on Thursday morning, resulting in his admission to the Ospedale Infermi in Rimini, Italy.
The hospital noted in a statement that there were “no fractures detected in any part of the body and no serious traumatic pathologies”, with Rossi recovering overnight with pain relief.
On Friday, a further statement was issued confirming that Rossi had been discharged from hospital.
“Valentino Rossi has returned home from the Ospedale Infermi in Rimini, having successfully completed routine diagnostic tests that were scheduled earlier on Friday,” the statement reads.
“With the attending doctors confirming the findings shared in this morning‘s medical bulletin, the nine-time World Champion left the hospital at 5.30pm, accompanied by his staff.
“He will now continue the recovery process at home.”
The Yamaha rider’s next racing engagement comes next weekend with the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel are the two most decorated drivers currently on the Formula 1 grid, with seven World Championships between them (four for Vettel, and three for Hamilton).
However, their paths have rarely crossed on the track, and only in 2010 did both drivers battle each for a World Championship in the same year. They also battled Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber that year, with Vettel emerging on top to claim his first World Championship.
However, the 2017 season sees Hamilton and Vettel in the two best cars on the grid, and they have gone head-to-head multiple times already this year, with each claiming two victories through the first five races. Currently, Vettel leads Hamilton 104-98 in the world championship, and the two men are developing a strong on-track rivalry.
Monaco Grand Prix coverage continues with FP3 and qualifying on Saturday. Full times are linked here.
In Friday’s NASCAR AMERICA Motorsports Special on NBCSN, we take you behind the scenes during F1 superstar Fernando Alonso’s qualifying runs for the Indy 500, including when he was on the pole for a brief period. He’ll eventually start fifth.
On Friday’s NASCAR AMERICA Motorsports Special on NBCSN, Parker Kligerman and his backseat driver, Kyle Petty, took to the iRacing simulator to make a mock run around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.
They look at the challenges of IMS, as well as the challenges two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will face in the first oval track race in his illustrious career. Alonso is among the favorites in the race and will take the green flag from the middle of Row 2 (fifth position).
Check out the above video.