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UPDATED: Denny Hamlin explains what happened at Fontana

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UPDATE: Denny Hamlin met with members of the media after Friday’s Sprint Cup practice session at Martinsville Speedway. In that session, Hamlin set track records for speed and elapsed time, becoming the first driver in track history to eclipse 100 mph in a lap, as well as under 19 seconds.

Here’s excerpts of Hamlin’s explanation of what happened last Sunday at Fontana, followed by what he said earlier today in an interview with Fox Sports.

“Friday evening I definitely felt an agitation right in the corner to my upper eyelid so I thought I was getting a sty because it just felt like one. Then Saturday, I woke up and it was a little worse. I ran through practice and vision was fine, but just a lot of watering and I didn’t see any swelling of the eyelid so I knew it wasn’t a sty at that point.

“I didn’t go to the infield care center until late on Saturday. Me and my girlfriend went to the mall – we were shopping around and it was bothering me so much that I contacted one of the NASCAR liaisons and asked if anyone was still at the infield care center. They said they would wait on me so they waited on me. They looked at it, they dyed it, they put it under a black light, didn’t see any scratches, didn’t see anything in the eye.

“Immediately we started trying to figure out what would be causing it if there’s nothing in it. The only thing I could think of is I was starting to actually get a little stuffy on my left hand side of my face and my nose was running a little bit. I mentioned to them in trying to cover all the possibilities that I showed them a CT scan from January where I had a really, really bad sinus infection — it was the worst the doctor has ever seen.

“We took some antibiotics for a couple weeks, I started feeling better and so I never went back to him to get a scan, which I probably should have went back to Petty in January after I took all the antibiotics and felt better. I just assumed that if I feel better then more than likely it’s gone.

“So I went to bed Saturday night, woke up Sunday and felt twice as worse – pain was twice as worse and vision was slightly impaired over where it was Saturday. I stayed in the infield care center for a couple hours and we tried to go over all the possibilities of what it could be and really since they didn’t see anything in it, the only thing we could do was get an optometrist to come to the race track, which it was too late into the day for that, it was too late for me to go to one and come back in time (for the race).

“So everyone came to an agreement that the best thing for me was to go to the hospital and get scanned in case. There’s tons of different possibilities, whether it be a blood clot – anything that affects because there’s more to it, but any time wind would hit my eye it would shoot a pain right to my temple, so they thought that there was something really bad going on behind the eye that they didn’t have the equipment in the infield care center – you need to get a CT scan.

“The only way they’re ever going to know is to put me through another scan and see, but by the time I got to the hospital and the optometrist came in with her microscope, saw the metal, got it out – a portion of it, she couldn’t get the rust out she said – it would need a couple more days for that to harden to get out.

“Once the metal came out, I felt a lot better.  We went home, the CT scan showed that I was perfectly clear on the sinus part of it, which was very, very good news. I thought I was going to have to do something about that as well so I was perfectly good with the sinuses, it was just the metal that was overlooked.

“I wanted to race of course, no matter what.  I felt like if I was going to be a liability I would have pulled myself during the race, but there’s protocols that we have to go through and it’s not just my safety that has got to be taken into account. We’re racing around other guys and that’s one of the fastest tracks we go to.

“What if I caused a wreck early on? I don’t need to be a liability out there and obviously with this new format we hardly lost anything in points. We still have a great shot to win a lot of races from here until the Chase so take the safe approach.

“There were two separate, perfectly good doctors in the infield care center at California and both of them could not see it.  It took someone who was in the business of eyes to find it. It sucks because I wish I would have got it out on Saturday then I would have been fine for Sunday, but it’s part of it and it’s just bad luck. The track hates me.

“… Although at the hospital they found the metal and I felt better instantly, that doesn’t mean that was the whole problem. We had to go through two more days of testing in Charlotte to realize that the sinus part was okay. They got everything out on Monday.  Basically around the metal it built a rust ring so there was like a ring of rust around it. They needed time for that to harden for them to pick that out. Once he got that out I felt better yet.

“That’s why nothing was said for a few days is because I don’t want to be speaking out of line and not knowing exactly what I’m talking about until I know exactly what the problem was. We didn’t know that until Wednesday when we finally got cleared and they ran all the tests again to make sure that we were 100 percent. I don’t need to really justify a lot to a lot of people. I think the important people are NASCAR, my team guys and things like that. My health is my business and so I will give you all the facts and let you sift through them and do the best you can with them, but really I didn’t know everything that went on until Tuesday to Wednesday.”

When asked if he felt his reputation with fellow drivers, fans and the media may have been affected, Hamlin responded:

“I’m going to try not to get mad. My health is my business, but what if it was cancer or tumor? I don’t have to tell anyone that. It’s my business. People who thing negatively of me or think that we side-stepped some sort of drug test or something is ridiculous. I’m in one of the top-three cars in NASCAR, I would have to be an absolute moron to risk that. I have a daughter that I have to provide for a really long time. For people to question who I am inside and outside the race car, I’ve never done anything to even put that in question.

“I go to Bobcats games, I got out and hang out with friends out in public. I don’t stay tucked in my motorhome, I don’t stay tucked into my house, it’s not what I like to do. Because I’m out there a little bit more, people think I got out and I party. I got a wakeup call because I don’t drink at all hardly, ever. I’ve never done drugs, ever.

“I’m as clean as they come. I don’t know why people question who I am outside the race track. I worked too hard to get here to throw it all away. If anyone has any questions about that, they can ask me directly. People who assume, people like that … but it bothers me that my character is questioned.

“People think that there’s some kind of conspiracy. … I’m done justifying and defending myself on those things. I’m not going to let those people drag me down. … It just bothers me because there’s people that like to make rumors, and of course within our NASCAR community, rumors become truth when enough people say it.  I’m done.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

(Below is the original story from Friday morning before Hamlin spoke to the media:)

Denny Hamlin appeared in public and made his first comments since missing last Sunday’s race in California, showing up for practice and qualifying Friday at Martinsville Speedway, site of this Sunday’s STP 500.

A four-time winner at Martinsville, Hamlin was asked by Fox Sports’ Krista Voda how much pain he was in at Fontana.

“Enough,” Hamlin quipped before adding, “It was very agitated. The biggest problem was the metal had been in there for three days, so it began to rust.

“Once it started to rust, then it started to infect. That’s essentially what caused the major problem. But once we got it all out, it was good. It’s been a good week. Now we need to just come here to Martinsville and win this weekend.”

The agitation apparently didn’t impact Hamlin, as he broke both ends of the Martinsville track record with a lap of 18.932 seconds at 100.021 mph in the final two minutes of Friday afternoon’s pre-qualifying practice session.

Still, his interview with Voda failed to address several still lingering issues:

* How did doctors believe the metal sliver got into his eye in the first place?

* Where it’s believed the metal sliver originated from?

* Why did initial reports about his condition indicate he was suffering from a sinus infection that affected his vision, causing him to pull out of the race less than an hour before the green flag start?

Hamlin is due to meet with NASCAR media later Friday afternoon. (We will update this story if Hamlin makes additional revelations).

During the Fox interview, Hamlin wore large and dark sunglasses, most likely some form of protective measure, even though it was very cloudy and overcast.

Voda asked Hamlin about the sunglasses and “if there is any irritation or after-effects.”

“Yeah, it’ll probably be this way for a little while,” Hamlin said, “The doctor described it kind of like there’s a divot in the lens of my eyes, from where they had to dig it out.

“It’ll go away. It’s slightly agitated. Really, today is the only day it’s been agitated. It’s been fine the past three days. It’s just a small issue that grew into a big one and I hated that we had to miss last week.”

Even though he missed the race at Fontana, being treated at a nearby hospital while the event was being run (fill-in driver Sam Hornish Jr. finished 17th in Hamlin’s place), Hamlin still remains 11th in the Sprint Cup standings.

“With the new NASCAR format, this gives us an opportunity where all we have to do is work this weekend,” Hamlin said. “We have to win, I feel like we’re going to win, and it’ll all be in the past.”

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Felix Rosenqvist confirms end of Indy Lights program

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CASTLE DONINGTON, UK – Felix Rosenqvist has confirmed that his Indy Lights program has ended following his move into Formula E with Mahindra Racing.

Rosenqvist moved into Indy Lights for 2016 after winning the FIA European Formula 3 title last year, joining Belardi Racing.

The Swede won his second Indy Lights race at St. Petersburg but was forced to miss a handful of rounds due to commitments elsewhere in GT racing and DTM.

Rosenqvist won both races of the Toronto weekend, which proved to be his last in Indy Lights. A move up into a race-seat in DTM with Mercedes was announced earlier this month after Esteban Ocon claimed a Formula 1 driver with Manor, but it was his Formula E deal with Mahindra – confirmed on Monday – that prompted him to call time on his Indy Lights involvement.

“I think it was more when the Formula E got confirmed,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports.

“The clash I have next week with Nürburgring and Watkins Glen would be there anyway as I’m Mercedes’ reserve driver in DTM, so that didn’t really change anything.

“But the fact that the next Donington test is interfering with Laguna Seca made it for sure that I cannot compete unfortunately. That’s a shame but that’s how it is.

“The deal we had with Belardi for this year was they were aware I had some clashes and there might be more clashes. It’s fine from both sides and it was expected.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t do more than we did.”

Rosenqvist remains keen to return to America in the future, having enjoyed an IndyCar test with Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio last month.

“I think IndyCar is for sure really high on my list of things I want to do,” Rosenqvist said.

“Obviously I tried the car this year, had a really good test for Ganassi there. It’s something I would like to continue, next year or not, doesn’t really matter for me.

“But I would really like to try that one more time.”

Rosenqvist believes he could have been in contention for the Indy Lights title had he not been forced to miss a number of races, but says failing to do so may make it difficult for others to judge his ability.

“I mean I didn’t do the whole championship. I think it’s hard to rate people if they don’t do the whole championship because maybe you have less pressure,” Rosenqvist said.

“For sure I won three races, so that was definitely good. I would like to be there and fight for the title. I’m sure I could have done it.

“I think it’s up to people to judge their impression from the time I was there. I definitely enjoyed it and I would like to go back to America at one point.”

Here are your Firestone 600 at Texas (take 2) times on NBCSN

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The Verizon IndyCar Series takes what would have been an off week and now has not only an extra trip, but a short week, to head to Texas Motor Speedway for the resumption of the rain-postponed Firestone 600 from June.

Following the rain-delayed Pocono Raceway race, the remaining 177 laps at Texas take place on Saturday night.

Here’s the details for NBCSN’s coverage this weekend:

INDYCAR FIRESTONE 600 – SATURDAY AT 9:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBC Sports Group continues its exclusive cable coverage of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series this Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET with live coverage of the Firestone 600 from Texas Motor Speedway. This race was rescheduled after torrential rain halted the race on Sunday, June 12, after just 71 of a scheduled 248 laps were completed. Saturday night’s race will resume on Lap 72, with James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports), who held the lead at the time the race was halted, at the front of the pack.

Will Power (Penske) won the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono on Monday to move within 20 points of teammate Simon Pagenaud who continues to lead the championship standings. Power has finished in first or second place for the last six consecutive races, which includes four victories.

Coverage begins on NBCSN on Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET with pre-race coverage, followed by green flag action at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Kevin Lee (play-by-play) will call the action alongside analysts and drivers Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. Reporters Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller will report from the pits.

Date Coverage Time (ET) Network
Sat., Aug. 27 IndyCar Pre-Race Show 9 p.m. NBCSN
IndyCar Firestone 600 9:30 p.m. NBCSN
IndyCar Post-Race Show 10:30 p.m. NBCSN

Here are your Belgian Grand Prix times on NBCSN, NBC Sports App

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 23:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 23, 2015 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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After the summer break, Formula One is back in action this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix. Live free practice two and the race occur on NBCSN while live qualifying will occur via live streaming on the NBC Sports app (link here); it will air Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Full details and times for the weekend are below:

FORMULA ONE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX – SUNDAY AT 7:30 A.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBC Sports Group continues its coverage of the 2016 Formula One Championship this Sunday with the Belgian Grand Prix, as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton aims for his fifth consecutive win and seventh victory in eight races. Hamilton now leads the drivers’ standings (217 points) by 19 points over teammate and rival Nico Rosberg (198 points) as he races towards a fourth career F1 season championship. Hamilton won last year’s race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the second Belgian GP win of his career (2010).

Live coverage begins exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app on Friday morning at 4 a.m. ET with Practice 1, followed by NBCSN’s live coverage of Practice 2 at 8 a.m. ET. Streaming coverage on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app continues Saturday at 5 a.m. ET with Practice 3 and live qualifying at 8 a.m. ET. NBCSN will air delayed coverage of qualifying on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

Live Belgian Grand Prix coverage begins Sunday morning at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN with F1 Countdown, and is followed by F1 Extra at 10 a.m. ET.

Lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey will call this weekend’s action, and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. F1 insider Will Buxton will serve as the team’s on-site reporter in Belgium.

Times are below:

Date Coverage Time (ET) Network
Fri., Aug. 26 F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 1 4 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 2 8 a.m. NBCSN
Sat., Aug. 27 F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 3 5 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying 8 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying* 1 p.m. NBCSN
Sun., Aug. 28 GP2 Belgium 6 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Countdown 7 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Belgian Grand Prix 7:30 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Extra 10 a.m. NBCSN

Clauson’s “Chasing 200 Tour” now in a race to register 200 new donors

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 20:  Bryan Clauson driver of the #39 Sarah Fisher Hartman/ Curb Agajanian car waits to take to the track for the Indinapolis 500 qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 20, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Wednesday will be the day that the late Bryan Clauson’s life will be celebrated at Kokomo Speedway in Kokomo, Ind., the Noblesville, Ind. driver’s adopted home track.

Late Tuesday night, the Clauson family announced that Bryan’s pursuit of competing in 200 races this year – “The Chasing 200 Tour: Circular Insanity,” will continue on.

Clauson, who was revealed as a registered organ and tissue donor after his passing (an important element of what made him such a special person), helped to save five lives and heal dozens more.

But now, that race will continue, with the goal of registering 200 organ and tissue donors in Bryan’s memory, announced tonight.

“This has been such a bittersweet moment for our family,” said Tim Clauson, father of Bryan Clauson.

“We miss our son terribly. However, what has kept us going is the outpouring of support from the community and Bryan’s decision to be an organ donor. We have always been proud of him for the generous person he was. Being a donor saves lives and gives us hope to see Bryan continue to live on in the lives he has helped.”

Here’s the full release, via the Clauson website.

Countless BC Forever tributes took place this past weekend at both Bristol Motor Speedway in NASCAR and Pocono Raceway in IndyCar. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one of Clauson’s closest friends, finished second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday. His emotional interview is below.