Denny Hamlin will be back behind the wheel of the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota this weekend at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, after doctors tracked down the cause of last weekend's vision problems.
Originally thought to be related to a sinus infection, Hamlin was forced to pull out of last weekend's race in Fontana, California and instead sent to a local hospital for further tests and evaluations.
"He held his head and said his head was hurting so bad. He was having trouble seeing," Hamlin's crew chief Darian Grubb had revealed. "His vision was getting worse and the pain was getting worse. It got to where he couldn't see and was having trouble with the vision in his left eye because of the pressure and everything that was going on."
Doctors at the local hospital found that rather than a sinus infection, it was actually a small piece of metal had got into Hamlin's eye that was causing the intense irritation, pain and blurred vision. They were able to remove the sliver of metal, and Hamlin reported immediate improvement to his condition.
A CT scan did not find any other complications, leaving the medical team to conclude that the fragment of metal had indeed been the actual source of Hamlin's vision impairment. He was subsequently released from the hospital later on Sunday after being given the doctors' approval to fly home.
Hamlin was subsequently evaluated by a doctor in the Charlotte, North Carolina area on Monday, and was sent home to rest with instructions to return on Wednesday for a follow-up appointment. Following the examination, his doctors have concluded that the problem has now been fully treated and Hamlin is no longer experiencing any problem with his visions.
The doctors duly passed on to NASCAR the necessary approval for Hamlin to resume his racing activity without restriction. NASCAR has received official confirmation from his doctors clearing him to resume racing this weekend. Hamlin himself hasn't commented on the latest developments, but will meet the media as part of the usual build-up to Sunday afternoon's race.
Hamlin's place at Fontana was taken by Sam Hornish Jr., who had been present at Auto Club Speedway as a stand-by driver in case Hamlin's JGR team mate Matt Kenseth had been called away to attend the birth of his third child with wife Katie, which had been due the same weekend. Hornish went on to finish in 17th place in what was his first Sprint Cup start since last April's race at Kansas Speedway.
Hamlin will not benefit from the championship points that Hornish picked up as only the driver who starts the race gets credited with the points. However, NASCAR confirmed that Sunday's absence will not affect Hamlin's eligibility for the Chase under the new format and will be counted as a medical exemption under the rules.
Last year, a last-lap accident at Fontana caused Hamlin to crash heavily, which left him with an injury to his lower back that forced him to sit out the next four races, dropping him down the points standings and effectively ending his hopes of making the 2013 Chase. That's not the case this year, as a race win between now and September's visit to Richmond will put him right back in the hunt.
As well as the STP 500 Cup race on Sunday, Martinsville will also host the second round of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, the Kroger 250 on Saturday afternoon. It will be the Truck drivers' first outing since the season opener at Daytona at the end of February. The Nationwide Series takes a week off and returns to action a week on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.