Denny Hamlin out of Auto Club 400 with sinus infection – USA TODAY

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014

FONTANA, Calif. — Denny Hamlin will miss the Auto Club 400 due to a sinus infection which is affecting his vision, Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs said 30 minutes before the start of today’s race.

Sam Hornish Jr., who was in Fontana as a standby driver for expectant father Matt Kenseth, will drive Hamlin’s No. 11 car.

Hamlin expressed some concerns about his vision in relation to the sinus infection, Gibbs said. NASCAR didn’t medically clear Hamlin to race within 45 minutes of the start time, and he was transported to a hospital for further evaluation. Doctors also advised Hamlin he should not take the wheel.

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“(Hamlin) has a sinus infection, and it’s affecting his vision, so he won’t be able to start the race today,” said Gibbs, who indicated that the sinus problems probably began Friday. “So we hate it for him. He’s been so good for us and JGR over the years. We’re just praying he has a quick recovery. Hopefully they’ll take him to the hospital, do the scan and be able to come home real soon.”

This is the second year in a row Hamlin has had to make a trip to the hospital in Southern California. Last year, he required hospitalization after breaking his back in a last-lap crash with Joey Logano.

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Hamlin tweeted: “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”

Hornish has experience doing fill-in duty at the last minute. In July 2012, Hornish filled in for AJ Allmendinger after the latter driver was suspended for failing a NASCAR drug test.​

“I’m glad he was here,” Gibbs said of Hornish. “He’s the same size as Denny. I think he’ll do a great job today.”

Hamlin’s issue will not affect his eligibility for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Drivers are only required to make an attempt to qualify for the race — not start it — and Hamlin did that on Friday.

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