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Dale Earnhardt Jr. questions why so little information has been released on Denny Hamlin’s condition


Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants answers – or at the very least, clarification – on why so little information has been released to date on why fellow driver Denny Hamlin missed this past Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Calif.

Hamlin was hospitalized for several hours Sunday with a severe sinus infection that reportedly affected his vision, making him unable to compete in the race.

In a story in USA Today, Earnhardt bemoaned the dearth of information on Hamlin’s condition, claiming this was the first time in his racing career that a driver was essentially pulled from a race so close to the green flag being dropped.

Due to the infection and how it impaired his vision, Hamlin did not receive medical clearance to race at Fontana, which wasn’t announced until during pre-race driver introductions.

“I’m worried the perception is bad for NASCAR and the perception is bad for Denny,” Earnhardt told USA Today.

“If Denny didn’t race because his vision is blurred and he had a sinus infection, NASCAR should put out a release and say, ‘This is the timeline of the events and this is why we made this choice and this is the protocol for going forward.’

“That answers everybody’s questions. Don’t you have questions? I have questions. We shouldn’t have questions. We should all feel pretty comfortable with what happened.”

Sam Hornish Jr. replaced him in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and finished 17th in the race.

RELATED: Hamlin finally speaks — kind of

Earnhardt isn’t accusing Hamlin or JGR of anything surreptitious, but added more information needs to be released to essentially clear Hamlin “of any wrongdoing or pressure or rumors.”

“If Denny did everything right, that’s good to know,” Earnhardt said. “Why NASCAR did the things they did and the timeline, it would be good to know those things because the drivers are all curious and the fans are curious.

“Information is moving around and you’re (hearing) conversations with your friends. It just doesn’t need to be going on. We should all know what happened and know why it happened and be done with it and not have to worry about it.”

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp told USA Today, “Information regarding Denny Hamlin’s health and medical condition should come from Denny and/or Joe Gibbs Racing. As is our policy, Denny will be allowed to return to on track competition after NASCAR receives notification that he has been medically cleared by his physicians to race.”

Hamlin is reportedly still awaiting medical clearance to race this Sunday in NASCAR’s STP 500 Sprint Cup event at Martinsville Speedway.

(UPDATE: Hamlin was cleared Wednesday afternoon to race Sunday at Martinsville.)

Hamlin said on his Twitter account Tuesday night that he would give an update today (Wednesday), choosing not to say anything at the time out of respect for Richard Petty’s wife Lynda, who passed away Tuesday afternoon.

Earnhardt also questioned why NASCAR has not publicly addressed the situation with some form of statement, as well as there being no additional information released about Hamlin either by himself or Joe Gibbs Racing.

Hamlin addressed Earnhardt’s concern with this tweet:

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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.