Joe Gibbs Racing Makes Driver Change for Xfinity Series Race at Darlington

Denny Hamlin

Getty Denny Hamlin will not suit up for the Xfinity Series race at Darlington.

The Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway was supposed to be Denny Hamlin’s lone start of the 2022 season. Now he will miss the race due to lingering soreness from a massive crash at Daytona International Speedway.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced the news on August 31. Hamlin will no longer suit up for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 on September 3. Instead, Christopher Bell will climb into the No. 18 Toyota GR Supra with Sport Clips as his primary partner.

“I have had some soreness in my neck, back, and hips from the wreck on Sunday,” Hamlin said in a press release. “I feel like the right thing for me to do is to sit out the Xfinity Series race and put 100 percent of my focus on getting ready for this weekend’s Cup Series playoff race.”

The race on September 3 will mark only Bell’s third Xfinity Series start at the South Carolina track. He took on the track in both 2018 and 2019 while posting a career-best finish of fourth overall in the second start. The first came to an early end after a crash involving him and Daniel Hemric.

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Hamlin Was Involved in a Massive Crash

The soreness stems from an incident during the final stage of the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Hamlin was one of 13 drivers caught up in a massive crash due to rainfall at Daytona International Speedway.

The incident occurred with 21 laps remaining. Hamlin had the lead in the middle lane with Daniel Suarez on his left and Justin Haley on his right. They suddenly lost control and moved in different directions. Hamlin hit the outside wall while Suarez spun to the inside before rebounding back into traffic.

The drivers had no time to react before losing grip due to the water. They simply lost control and slammed into the wall and each other. These violent collisions led to frustrated comments from a variety of drivers after they underwent evaluation at the infield care center.

“Just my whole body,” Hamlin told reporters after exiting the care center. “Literally, my jaw hurts. I feel like my jaw was one of those boxers that just gets his whole face demolished. That was certainly the first real big one I’ve had in this car. Everything they’ve been telling us, all the other drivers, is true. It’s legit.”

There have been concerns throughout the season about the safety of the Next Gen cars. Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, and Kevin Harvick are only some of the examples of drivers that have mentioned how much minor-appearing collisions hurt.

“You look at the cars, and you’re like, ‘Oh, man, they look great.’ That’s the problem,” Harvick said during the trip to Michigan International Speedway. “Nothing flew off of it,’ right? That’s the problem. All that energy is just absorbed to you. So it feels like you get hit by the hammer and the car survives, but is that really what you want? The cars are all together, it looks great, but it doesn’t feel good.”

Hamlin Will Not Skip an Important Race

Denny Hamlin

GettyDenny Hamlin will not skip the Southern 500.

While Hamlin will not suit up for the Xfinity Series race as originally planned, he will be back in the No. 11 for the Cup Series race. He will take part in the playoff opener and try to secure a spot in the Round of 12.

Hamlin, who is the defending winner of the Southern 500, will enter the playoffs sixth overall in the standings. This opener will provide him with another opportunity to reach Victory Lane and add some crucial points to his total.

Hamlin already has four wins at the South Carolina track. He first captured the checkered flag in 2010 before adding wins in 2017, 2020, and 2021. Three of these wins were also Crown Jewel races, which add historical significance. Now he will pursue a fifth win, one that would help him move on to the next round of the playoffs.

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