Hamlin wins Watkins Glen despite "worst pain I’ve had to go through"

How close did winner Denny Hamlin come to not even competing in Sunday’s road course race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International because of his recurring back spasms?

Hamlin wins Watkins Glen despite "worst pain I’ve had to go through"
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota takes the checkered flag
Race winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Race winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Race winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, crew members celebrating
Race winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Apparently a lot closer than many realized.

There was an early clue when Hamlin spent the entire pre-race drivers meeting standing behind the back row of seats, instead of sitting in a chair with his crew chief, Mike Wheeler, and fellow Joe Gibbs Racing drivers.

By then, Wheeler already knew the condition of his driver.

“I got the text this morning when he woke up. He was in trouble. It was like, you know, not something you really want to hear. You know you got good cars, good teammates, track position to start,” Wheeler said after the race.

“But at end of the day I know he man’s up when he needs to. I almost want to say if he knew he didn't have a winning car, he might do something different. But I know he definitely gets that attitude going in the car when he has a winning car, can run up front and tough it out.”

Not his first experience with spasms

Hamlin said he didn’t know what caused the spasms on Sunday. Neck spasms forced him out of his car at Bristol, Tenn., in April 2015 and Erik Jones filled in the remainder of that race.

“I’ve got a pretty good routine that I do during the week that helps with that. But just today, you know, slept wrong, something. Woke up and knew I was in pretty big trouble,” he said. “We worked on it all day to try to make it better. We really didn’t make it much better.

“No doubt if it was Friday or Saturday, no question I wouldn’t have turned one lap today. It was by far the worst conditions I’ve ever had to drive in, over the knees, anything else. This was by far the worst pain-wise I’ve had to go through.”

Pushing through the pain

Even during a late-race red flag, Hamlin was struggling to finish the race.

“It didn’t get any better throughout the day. Trust me, I’m sitting there, even though I’m overjoyed that we’re leading the race, I was thinking under the red flag, ‘Let's get this over with so I can get out of this car.’

“I don't know why it did it today. But I'll just continue to go to work on it and try to get in the gym and try to make things a little bit better overall. I have missed my routine because I've had to travel over the last few weeks. I kind of got off sequence of my routine that’s helped my back.”

shares
comments
Larson calls Allmendinger incident "flat out stupid," sends a warning

Previous article

Larson calls Allmendinger incident "flat out stupid," sends a warning

Next article

Grosjean prefers NASCAR's approach to track limits

Grosjean prefers NASCAR's approach to track limits
Load comments
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020