Green light: Hamlin receives medical clearance for Martinsville

Denny Hamlin will return to the track this weekend after missing last Sunday's race in California.

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Just minutes before the start of last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, JGR officials announced that Hamlin would miss the event because of a sinus problem affecting his vision. Hamlin, who visited the track’s infield care center on Saturday night with an irritation in his eye and returned on Sunday before the race, was replaced in the No. 11 Toyota by part-time JGR Nationwide Series driver Sam Hornish Jr. who finished 17th in Hamlin’s absence.

"It crushed me last week not being able to compete for the guys on the FedEx team," Hamlin said. "I definitely have extra motivation this weekend at Martinsville, a place that has been a pretty good track for our team over the years. … I’m confident that we will be able to run up front and compete for the win this weekend. I’m feeling better and can’t wait to get back in the car on Friday for practice."

The on-site medical team that examined Hamlin last Sunday declared him unable to race due to a sinus infection believed to be impacting his vision, and the doctors treating Hamlin referred him to a local hospital for further evaluation.  

Hornish Jr. excels as last-minute fill-in for Hamlin

During that evaluation, a small piece of metal was discovered in Hamlin’s eye.

"Doctors were able to remove the sliver of metal and Hamlin felt immediate improvement to his condition," Wednesday’s JGR statement said. "A CT Scan did not find any other complications and thus it is believed that the metal was actually the source of Hamlin’s vision issues."

The Chesterfield, Va., native was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon and given doctor’s approval to fly home.

Hamlin was then evaluated by a doctor in the Charlotte area on Monday and sent home to rest, before returning Wednesday for a follow-up examination. Following Wednesday’s exam, Hamlin’s doctors provided the necessary approval for him to resume all racing activity without restriction this weekend.

NASCAR announced Sunday it would grant Hamlin a medical exemption for missing the Fontana race, so that his absence wouldn’t affect his championship eligibility.

Hamlin has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in all but one season since joinining NASCAR’s top series in 2006. The one year he missed the Chase was 2013 when, coincidentally, he broke his back in a last-lap crash at Fontana, forcing him to miss four points races.