|Hamlin OK after testing crash|
Denny Hamlin crashed in Turn One at Kansas Speedway today, pancaking the side of his No. 11 FedEx Toyota at over 181 mph on Day Two of a Sprint Cup test session at the newly repaved oval. One month ago, Hamlin would have driven his damaged car back to the garage, climbed out and begun assessing the damage. Today, he was summoned by NASCAR to the Infield Care Center, where doctors quickly assessed him for a possible concussion.
Earnhardt suffered a concussion in an Oct. 7 crash at Talladega Superspeedway; his second in the last six weeks. That injury will cause the Hendrick Motorsports driver to miss at least two races. He did not compete last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and will also miss Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 in Kansas. His absence has made concussions a hot-button issue in a sport where previously, tough-guy drivers knowingly competed with all manner of injuries.
Singlehandedly, Earnhardt changed the cavalier attitude that characterized the NASCAR garage for decades.
|Thank you, Dale.|
In 1984, Ricky Rudd used duct tape to hold his swollen eyes open and compete in a 400-mile race at Richmond International Raceway, one week after a savage, egg-beater flip at Daytona. Years later, Rudd admitted he was forced to focus on the rear bumper of the car in front of him that day, to ward off attacks of severe vertigo.
Walk it off. Rub a little dirt on it. If it’s not bleeding, you can race.
We’ll never know how many drivers have paid the price for that attitude over the years.
For every Lee Roy Yarbrough, a 1960s NASCAR great who was institutionalized with dementia believed to be a result of repeated crash-related head injuries, there are likely dozens of others who went undiagnosed and continued to race.
Thankfully, Denny Hamlin will not be one of them.
Photo: Mike McCarn, Associated Press