Denny Hamlin crashes during test
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Championship contender Denny Hamlin said he felt dizzy and had his "bell rung" after a hard crash during full-field testing Thursday at Kansas Speedway.
Hamlin was going 202 mph over the repaved surface of the 1.5-mile tri-oval when he clipped the rear of his No. 11 Toyota on the wall entering Turn 1. Hamlin's primary car for Sunday's race shot toward the apron and Hamlin over-corrected, sending it into the outside wall.
Hamlin managed to get his car back to the garage area and then walked to the care center. He returned about an hour later for a second series of tests before being cleared to drive.
"It was the first time I really had some dizziness after a hit," said Hamlin, who compared it to a 2008 wreck at Talladega that ended with a trip to the hospital and a mild concussion. "Usually I'm sore or your jaw hurts from clenching your jaw. This is the first time I really got dizzy."
Hamlin, who enters the weekend third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, said he was encouraged by NASCAR officials to visit the care center after they examined the car and considered the severity of the wreck.
It was the first time Hamlin could remember that happening.
"Obviously the severity of it, and the speeds we were running, it was a wise thing to do anyway," Hamlin said. "Just bell-rung, typical hard hit, ring-your-bell kind of thing. You get jarred around, you feel a little out of it at first. Everything came back OK."
Hamlin said that Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s decision to step out of his car in the midst of the Chase after two concussions in a six-week span didn't have any bearing on his decision to visit the care center, but he did acknowledge that driver safety has been pushed to the forefront.
Earnhardt did not seek treatment for the first concussion, suffered in an Aug. 29 crash at a tire test at Kansas. He sought treatment following a 25-car crash in the Oct. 7 race at Talladega that left him with a lingering headache, and has been replaced in the No. 88 car by Regan Smith.
"I don't know you're going to have drivers voluntarily step out of the car," said Hamlin, who returned to the track in his backup car less than an hour after being reevaluated.
"That'll be the continued challenge of it, no matter how you feel or anything like that," he said. "You're just not going to want to step out of your car."
Clint Bowyer, who's fourth in the Chase, was pulling onto the track Thursday when he saw Hamlin slide up the new variable banking and into the wall.
"He was sideways way, way early, and I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and then I saw him get on the apron and he was in trouble, man," Bowyer said. "He hit hard."
Hamlin, who won the April race at Kansas, was testing the same car he drove to victory at New Hampshire last month. But his backup car isn't too shabby: it's the primary car that Hamlin drove at Chicago, where he would have finished higher than 16th in the Chase opener except he ran out of gas when his fueler didn't get the tank full on the final stop.
"We don't have any backup cars," crew chief Darian Grubb said. "They're all primaries."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press