Mar 21, 2014, 10:36 PM EDT
Denny Hamlin‘s 2013 season was altered severely when he slammed head-on into a part of Auto Club Speedway’s inside retaining wall that wasn’t covered by a SAFER barrier.
Hamlin sustained a fractured vertebrae in the incident, which occurred after he battled on the final lap with Joey Logano last spring at Fontana. He missed four full races and his hopes for the Chase were effectively scratched.
Today at ACS, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said that it was time for more tracks to adopt the SAFER technology, echoing the comments made by Kevin Harvick earlier this month during the Phoenix weekend (Harvick crashed into an uncovered inside retaining wall during the previous week’s Daytona 500).
“Anywhere that we have a concrete wall should be covered by SAFER barrier,” he said. “There’s a lot of race tracks where you look at the map from the sky and my particular team has highlighted where there is no SAFER barrier at a lot of mile-and-a-half [tracks]. Eighty percent of the inside walls are not covered at all.
“Even though this is a small section that they have here at this track, it’s not just about this one. It’s about many, many other mile-and-a-half [tracks] – they have to improve on getting SAFER barriers where they should be. It could save someone one day. It should be at the highest priority.”
The good news is that Hamlin is feeling much better after having a full offseason to truly recover from the wreck.
“Physically, I feel really good, actually – the best I’ve felt back-wise in a really long time. I mean years and years,” he said. “I’m better than I was before the wreck, for sure.
“I had issues – degenerating disc issues that have plagued me for a long time and the wreck obviously made that a lot worse. I’ve found things that help me through that now and I hate to knock on wood and say cured me, but it’s really helped a lot. I’m past that part.”
Hamlin qualified 13th today for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.