Denny Hamlin will miss the Auto Club 400 due to a sinus infection that has affected his vision, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sunday.
Sam Hornish Jr., already on standby for Matt Kenseth, whose wife is due to give birth, will drive the No. 11 Toyota in Hamlin’s place at Auto Club Speedway.
The decision for Hamlin to withdraw was made at 11:30 a.m. PT, approximately 45 minutes before the scheduled start of the Auto Club 400. He was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
“We hate it for him. He’s been so good for JGR over the years,” team president J.D. Gibbs said. “We are just praying that he has a quick recovery and hopefully they’ll take him to the hospital and get scanned and he’ll be able to come home real soon, hopefully tomorrow.”
Gibbs said Hamlin began experiencing symptoms Friday. But on the recommendation of doctors, Hamlin was not cleared by NASCAR to compete Sunday. His status for next week’s race at Martinsville Speedway has not been determined.
“I think (Hamlin) can still drive, but he brought it up and was concerned about it and wanted to make sure it was taken care of,” Gibbs said. “The doctors said, ‘Hey, you have to do this right away. Hopefully it’s nothing, but you have to get checked out.'”
It was at Fontana a year ago where Hamlin suffered a broken vertebra that forced him to sit out four races. The 33-year-old had said leading into the weekend that he had “circled this race on his calendar” and spoke of seeking “redemption” in Victory Lane.
So disappointed that I can’t compete today. Sorry to all my fans. Thought we had a car that could win today. Good luck to @SamHornish
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 23, 2014
Because Hamlin qualified Friday, his Chase for the Sprint Cup eligibility is not impacted, as NASCAR only requires that drivers attempt to qualify for all 26 regular season races.