Long: Don’t be quick to restrict driver freedoms


RICHMOND, Va. – Denny Hamlin can’t wait to play basketball again, to drive the lane, shoot 3-pointers and muscle for rebounds.

And he should even after suffering a torn ACL earlier this week – the second time since 2010 he’s suffered such an injury playing basketball. He damaged his left knee five years ago. He hurt his right knee Tuesday and will have surgery in the offseason.

Some have suggested that Hamlin should not have been playing basketball with the Chase for the Sprint Cup starting next week. The argument is that a driver should not jeopardize their title hopes with anything that could lead to injury. Of course, some of those people would prefer drivers be bubble-wrapped when not in the car – a truly absurd notion.

So is the idea that Joe Gibbs Racing should bar Hamlin from playing basketball again because he’s been injured twice. Gibbs has a simple policy on what drivers can do, according to Hamlin.

“I can do anything I want, just don’t break the law,’’ he said Friday at Richmond International Raceway.

If one is going to keep a driver from playing basketball, what’s next? Carl Edwards broke his foot playing Frisbee six years ago. Ready to outlaw that? Many of the drivers live near Lake Norman, north of Charlotte, N.C. Greg Biffle bruised ribs when he slipped and fell on a boat deck six years ago. Should drivers be kept out of the water or anywhere near it?

No, these adrenaline junkies are going to look for their fix whether it is triathlons, biking, skiing, scuba diving, driving dune buggies or something else. The key is that they do all they can to ensure their safety.

“It is tough because you want to go and live your life and you can get hurt doing anything,’’ Edwards said about activities he does. “I’d say in general I don’t think about it too much. I go out and do the things that I want to do, but you do have to be conscious of it and I think everybody is.’’

Hamlin could be faulted for not pulling himself out of his recreation league basketball game sooner. He tweaked the knee earlier in the game but continued. His driving layup with five seconds left sent the game into overtime where he was injured.

Expect him back on the basketball court next year once he’s recovered from his surgery.

“It’s what I do to relieve stress, and I have fun doing it,’’ Hamlin said. “It’s the only way I’ll go for a run. There’s no way I could put on a running shoes and go on a 5-mile run. Put a ball in my hands and I’ll go for days.’’

Hamlin sees no reason to give up playing basketball because he doesn’t see the injury hindering in the car.

“I’m going to drive as fast as the car is going to let me go,’’ he said. “(The injury) juices you up that extra 10 percent to make sure you do your job. I’ll go out there feeling like I need to go out there and prove I am 100 percent.’’

Those who doubt Hamlin will say he should have sought an exemption to miss this weekend’s race and remain Chase eligible so he could have surgery instead of waiting until after the season.

“We were pretty confident that doing the surgery or not doing the surgery, either way, I would be the same inside the car,’’ Hamlin said. “So, why skip a week if I’m going to end up being the same anyway? It’s really just to improve life outside the car.

“Obviously I’m going to go through the next 10 weeks and can’t do any running or can’t do anything active for the next 10 to 11 weeks, so that part of it sucks, but, other than that, there just isn’t a benefit to do it right now especially since you don’t know how you’re going to react recovery-wise.’’

Hamlin says he expects to ditch the crutch he’s been using soon. He says he feels fine in the car and is focused on what’s ahead instead of the injury.

“I expect to be part of the final four at Homestead once again,’’ said Hamlin who finished third in the points last year. “I think we’re running better now than what we were then and we almost won it. I’m pretty confident about the way these Chase tracks lay out. There’s nothing that should keep me from being in that championship four.”

And nothing that should keep Hamlin out of his next basketball game when he’s ready to return.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.