Denny Hamlin: ‘I don’t know why people question who I am’

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 28: (L-R) Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, talks with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 28:  (L-R) Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, talks with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
MARTINSVILLE, VA – MARCH 28: (L-R) Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, talks with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va.— Cleared to race after a shard of metal and rust residue were removed from his eye, Denny Hamlin fielded questions Friday from reporters in the media center at Martinsville Speedway.

Before he left the dais, Hamlin forcefully defended his record and his reputation against innuendos suggesting he might have had an ulterior motive in sitting out last week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Fontana, Calif.

“People who think negatively of me or think that we side-stepped some sort of drug test or something, it’s ridiculous,” Hamlin said emphatically, after describing in detail the procedures under which the sliver of metal was diagnosed and removed. “I’m in one of the top three cars in NASCAR. I would have to be an absolute moron —moron! — to risk that. I have a daughter I have to provide for [for] a really long time. For people to question who I am inside and outside the race car … I’ve never done anything to even put that in question.”

NASCAR doctors held Hamlin out of last Sunday’s race after the driver complained of impaired vision, the result of what was originally thought to be a sinus infection. Hamlin was taken to a nearby California hospital, where he said a specialist discovered the tiny sliver of metal in his eye.

Hamlin is often in the public eye, more so than most other drivers, and believes his high profile makes him a target for criticism.

“I go to Charlotte Bobcats games,” he said. “I go out and hang out with friends out in public. I don’t stay tucked in my motor home. I don’t stay tucked in my house. It’s not what I like to do. Because I’m out there a little bit more, people think I go out and party.

“I got a wake-up call, because I don’t drink at all, hardly ever. I’ve never done drugs — ever. I’m as clean as they come. I don’t know why people question who I am outside the race track.”

Hamlin appeared in fine fettle on Friday. He posted the fastest speed (101.021 mph) in opening NASCAR Sprint Cup  practice in preparation for Sunday’s STP 500, the sixth race of the season in NASCAR’s premier series.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.