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.
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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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