Shortly after Dale Earnhardt Jr. sounded off on the lack of news regarding the condition of Denny Hamlin, word came that Hamlin had been cleared for this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway after doctors removed a sliver of metal from his eye.
Before today’s first practice session at Martinsville, Earnhardt said that the statement from Hamlin had eased his concerns about unfounded speculations regarding the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s health.
“I thought a lack of a statement from Denny’s point of view left him vulnerable and unprotected (from speculation),” Earnhardt said to reporters. “I just felt like it was important for him to have a very simple statement that sort of cleared up any kind of assumptions or whatever you have for him, personally.
“That was good, I thought, on his behalf to do that as quickly as he could.”
JGR had initially said Hamlin was suffering from a vision-impairing sinus infection, which kept him out of last Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in California (Sam Hornish Jr. drove his car in a fill-in role). The decision to keep him out was revealed within an hour of the green flag.
He was taken to a local hospital and was released later that same evening.
The episode has caused some NASCAR observers, including USA Today’s Jeff Gluck, to call for the sanctioning body to install a traveling group of physicians to take care of the drivers (the series does have a traveling group of nurses, but doctors are usually chosen by each track).
However, Earnhardt believes that NASCAR’s medical process is fine.
I feel great about the process and what NASCAR has had in place for years,” he said. “They bring in the best people from that region that have the best connections to the hospitals in that region. If I am in trouble, I know I am going to be somewhere I am going to be taken care of very quickly.
“NASCAR has a team that travels and has all the information on our health and it is updated weekly if it needs to be. So I like the system we have in place, I feel like it’s adequate and I’m happy Denny is cleared and ready to race this weekend.”
Hamlin is scheduled to meet with the media at Martinsville later today.