NASCAR Notebook: Hamlin cleared to race at Lowe’s
The NASCAR notebook …
CONCORD ó Denny Hamlin was cleared to race Saturday night despite an overnight stay in an Alabama hospital following his hard wreck at Talladega Superspeedway.
“I couldn’t stand sitting this race out, and I think there’s a lot of people that question that, but I think if I had any question in my mind about it, I wouldn’t do it because really I have nothing to lose,” Hamlin said Thursday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Hamlin had a headache and sore ankle when his tire failed while leading Sunday at Talladega. His car shot up the track and into the outside wall in a hard hit that left him breathless. The tire was destroyed, so his Joe Gibbs Racing team and Goodyear have been unable to determine what cause the failure.
Hamlin knew he was going to wreck, but said he had almost no time to prepare himself.
“I had about one second, because I did cross all three lanes,” he said. “That was the worst thing because I wasn’t on the high groove where I was up against the wall already. I came from the low to the high. That was probably the one time that I wish I wasn’t leading the race.”
He was able to watch the final laps of the race from his Birmingham hospital room and was released Monday morning. He returned to North Carolina and was re-examined by Dr. Jerry Petty, a neurosurgeon who treats many NASCAR drivers.
“You move around too much and you’re sore,” Hamlin said. “I had a headache and what not. It seems like every day it’s just gotten a little bit better. I’ve become a little bit more active each day as well. I went out and played tennis yesterday.
“Just to do things to get my heart rate up and make sure I don’t have any headaches or anything, but now everything seems to get good.”
Hamlin was scheduled to run Friday night’s Nationwide Series race for Braun Racing, but bowed out because of his accident.
“We just felt like it would be a good idea if he pulled back a bit,” said Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs. “He’s feeling better, doing fine, but he needs to take it easy if he can.”
STEWART-ARMY: The U.S. Army said it will sponsor Ryan Newman for 23 races next season with Stewart-Haas Racing.
The partnership has long been rumored and was not well received by numerous fans who have expressed their disapproval of the Army partnering with a team that has ties to a convicted tax evader.
Gene Haas, owner of Haas Automation, began serving a two-year sentence in federal prison in January for pleading guilty of defrauding the government of more than $34 million in taxes.
Maj. Gen. Montague Winfield said the Army looked at the Haas factor, but decided the involvement of Stewart and Newman “basically overrode that particular issue
“We’re talking about the Stewart-Haas Racing team. We’re talking about a new team and more or less a new beginning,” Winfield said. “The individual that deals with us, the individual that talks racing, is in fact Tony Stewart. When you think about our connection with racing, it’s all about Tony Stewart, and that’s why we ultimately made the decision to go with him.”
Both Stewart and Winfield also pointed out that the race team is owned by Haas Automation, not Gene Haas.
“We basically separated Gene Haas from Haas Automation, and that’s why the decision was a little easier to make,” Winfield said. “We knew we wanted to be connected with Tony Stewart, and Tony Stewart is now a part of the Stewart-Haas Racing team.
“Haas Automation, in our mind, isn’t Gene Haas. He doesn’t run our racing team. Tony is responsible for this racing team. He has the authority to do all that is required, and he’s the point man for it.”
Stewart must still find a sponsor for the remaining 13 races on Newman’s No. 39 Chevrolet. He’s filled his car with a combination of Old Spice and Office Depot, and hired Darian Grubb to be his crew chief.
Stewart still needs a crew chief for Newman and a general manager to run the organization.
“We immediately just gained a fan base of over 1.2 million soldiers who will be on our side each week,” Stewart said of the Army partnership.
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