JGR teammate discusses challenges of being out of the car for an injury Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live HAMPTON, Ga. – Denny Hamlin says he has a pretty good idea of what Kyle Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, is going through these days. Busch, 29, suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot in a crash during the Feb. 21 NASCAR XFINITY Series race, the Alert Today Florida 300, at Daytona International Speedway. He has undergone surgeries on both injuries and is currently recuperating at home. It is not known when he will be able to return to competition. Hamlin missed four Sprint Cup Series races in 2013 when he suffered a back injury in a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway. "I talked to him this week," Hamlin said Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (FOX, 1 p.m. ET). "A little bit after Daytona, just talking about our cars and what I thought we felt. Kind of keeping him up to date with where we're at. But I haven't talked to him this weekend. "My guess is he's on plenty of pain medication and that's making him feel pretty good." Hamlin said the difficult part for Busch would likely be rehabilitation as Busch's body continues to heal. That and dealing with the emotions of being sidelined for so long while unable to go about his normal daily routine. "I know that personally," Hamlin said. "When you break something or something like that, the initial days you're like 'this isn't so bad, I can survive that,' but the rehab and going through all that is really going to be a challenge for him. "The biggest thing is just fighting your emotions and not getting all torn up about not being able to do the things that you were normally able to do. I was in a wheelchair for just a couple of days, he's probably going to be there for awhile so … the mental challenge will probably be the toughest thing he'll have to overcome." Two-time NACAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton filled in for Busch in the season-opening Daytona 500, finishing 18th in the team's No. 18 Toyota. Earlier this week, JGR officials named David Ragan the team's interim driver for the next several weeks. Ragan, a two-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series, will start 17th in Sunday's race. Eighteen-year-old Erik Jones is filling in for Busch this weekend in the organization's No. 54 entry in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Jones was originally slated to compete in 10 XFINITY events this year, with his next scheduled start coming at Auto Club Speedway. The series visits Las Vegas and Phoenix before the Auto Club stop, and JGR officials have not announced its driver plans for the No. 54 XFINITY Series team beyond this weekend. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Denny Hamlin spins after a restart and collects Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and others.
Denny Hamlin talks about the motorhome incident that happened to him at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Stewart-Haas Racing driver rallies from late wreck to make Daytona 500 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Buy Daytona 500 gear RELATED: Daytona 500 starting lineup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For the second time this week, Danica Patrick wound up with a wrecked race car and on both occasions fellow driver Denny Hamlin was seen as the culprit. And Patrick, driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Chevrolet, wasn’t happy. MORE: @nascarcasm's take on incident Barely one day after an incident with Hamlin during practice had sent her bouncing off the wall, Patrick was once again going for an unintentional spin at Daytona International Speedway. This time it was in the second of two Budweiser Duel qualifying races. This time it was for keeps. A bad finish and Patrick's Daytona 500 hopes could have vanished. Although she rallied to finish 10th thanks to a green-white-checkered finish that extended the race four laps beyond it's scheduled 60-lap distance, Patrick wasted no time in finding Hamlin after the race. Moments after pulling onto pit road, she climbed from her damaged car and quickly headed for Hamlin ’s stopped entry. Hamlin met her halfway, no doubt anticipating a confrontation. MORE: Underdogs make way into Daytona 500 field When Patrick reached up and grasped Hamlin's fire suit with both hands, Hamlin likely realized his expectations had been correct. "You did the same thing," Patrick said, referring to the Wednesday incident. "Tighten what up? Nobody else left me with a problem out there." "Nobody has your back like I have it," Hamlin said. "Stop. Listen to me. But I can’t give you an extra two feet because it’s you." "You give me nothing. You give me nothing. It spun my back end around!" countered Patrick. Hamlin : "I understand. It’s because you’re loose. It’s not my problem if you’re loose." Patrick: "Nobody else did it to me." Hamlin : "Then nobody else is getting close to you. We have to get close to you. To get you going forward, we have to get close to you. I know it got you loose." Patrick: "You spun me out. Just like in practice. When I looked in my rearview mirror and you were right here. You weren’t here; you were here." Hamlin : "Absolutely. You were loose entering the corners …" Patrick: “Because you … Denny . It happened twice. The same person, the same way.” Hamlin : "But guess what. I didn’t hit you either time." Patrick: "Well then apparently you don’t have to actually hit me. I like you Denny , you’re my friend." Hamlin : "Does it mean like, 'oh my god, she's loose. I can't run next to her?' What should I do?" Patrick: "It just means don't be up my ass on my left corner … you did it on the straightaway and then you did it in the corner that time. Both times exact same results." Hamlin : "I won't get close to you. I understand now." Patrick: "You can get close; I'm sure everybody gets close. But you don't need to turn me. That's what it did." Denny : "I know it did. I totally get it, but it's something they have to work on." At that point, Tony Stewart, co-owner of SHR, arrives and chides Hamlin . "Tony, I never touched her," Hamlin said. "I never touched her. What do you want me to do? Not run close?" "You watch the video," Stewart said. And with that, the party broke up. Patrick had managed to secure her spot in Sunday's Daytona 500. Because of the severity of damage in Thursday's crash, Patrick will be back behind the wheel of the car she drove to a 10th-place finish last Saturday's Sprint Unlimited for the remainder of the week. She’ll line up 20th for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Hamlin will start 42nd. PHOTOS: Best images from the Daytona Duels MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hamlin's advice: 'Take performance at Daytona with a grain of salt' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Shortly after his Joe Gibbs Racing hauler touched down near the sunny shores of Daytona Beach last year, Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota took on a bulletproof aura. Victories came with convincing style in the season's first two preliminary events, and Hamlin came just one spot short of unseating race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Daytona 500. But the air of invincibility left Hamlin with only vestiges and remembrances of his top-shelf performance the following week in Race No. 2, at Phoenix International Raceway. Suddenly, the Daytona front-runner was playing catch-up, a theme that recurred more than he would've liked. "We hadn't really talked about where our program was, and if you watched just those two races, you would've thought we were going to win every race in the entire season," Hamlin said of his wins in the 2014 Sprint Unlimited and his end of the Budweiser Duel 150-mile qualifying races. "We got to (the second race), what's going to be Atlanta this year, and next thing you know, reality sets in and we're like, 'Uh oh, we're behind.' "You've got to take performance at Daytona with a grain of salt and know that last year's success doesn't equal success this year, nor does it mean it's going to be success for the remaining race tracks. I can just take it year by year, and I'm thankful for the results I do get when they're good." Though it's season-long accomplishments he's after, Hamlin wouldn't mind adding Daytona 500 laurels to his trophy case to get 2015 off a fast start. He avoided a major setback in Wednesday practice after contact with Danica Patrick caused little more than cosmetic damage to his primary car. Hamlin's run through Speedweeks last year established his team as one of the pre-race favorites. Though the idea of NASCAR parity reaches its highest point at restrictor-plate tracks Daytona and Talladega, Hamlin insists the playing field can never quite be 100 percent level. "It's more the chess game if you're going to have it all work for winning these races than it is the equipment," Hamlin said. "I think it's a cliché when everyone says, 'Anyone can win here,' and anyone can if it's just handed to you in your lap and everyone else crashes. If they don't, you've got to figure out -- you've got to be smarter than the rest of the guys." Hamlin's plate-track savvy was on display last May with a regular-season victory at Talladega Superspeedway, a triumph that launched him into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, where he kept his championship hopes intact all the way to the final round. But on the other tracks that make up the meat of the Sprint Cup schedule, Hamlin's performance last year lacked his hoped-for consistency. The downturn prompted what Hamlin called JGR's "first total revamp" in his 11-year career, with a shuffling of crew chiefs that paired him with Dave Rogers -- formerly atop Kyle Busch's pit box -- for 2015. Hamlin said the Gibbs team essentially just changed the decals from Busch's No. 18 to his No. 11 in making the swap, though Hamlin will keep his lickety-split pit crew going forward. Rogers, who has worked with Hamlin before in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series, becomes just the third crew chief -- following Mike Ford and Darian Grubb -- to oversee the No. 11 since Hamlin joined the team in 2005. Though each crew chief during his tenure has brought their own approach, Hamlin said he's eager to open the next chapter with Rogers on an up note -- in Daytona and beyond. "They all have very different styles and they all work hard and they just do it a different way," Hamlin said. "I can't really explain what way that is, but they get there in a different way, and I know I will have success with Dave (Rogers, crew chief) because I've driven for him before. We've had success before and our communication has been great ever since we worked together eight years ago. I'm confident that the changes that were made are all changes for the better." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Both cars fail post-qualifying inspection at Daytona Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge MORE: Lineup for the Daytona Duels DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin had their qualifying times for next week's Daytona 500 (Feb. 22, FOX, 1 pm ET) disallowed Sunday when their respective entries failed post-qualifying technical inspection at Daytona International Speedway. According to NASCAR officials, Earnhardt Jr.'s Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet failed to meet the minimum height, measuring too low on the left front. As a result, he will start 25th in the first of two qualifying races scheduled for Thursday. Before the infraction, Earnhardt was scheduled to start fifth in the second race. With no on-track activity scheduled until Wednesday, Earnhardt was one of several drivers to return home following qualifying. But upon hearing of the measurement issue, he took to social media to note "That's a shame. The boys will figure out why. Makes the duels a lot more interesting." Ride height minimums for the Sprint Cup Series are only required when teams are competing at Daytona and Talladega where restrictor plates are required. Greg Ives, making his first official appearance as Earnhardt's crew chief, said that NASCAR officials "did their due diligence of allowing us to go through their processes of how they deal with it. "In the end we still ended up low. It's unfortunate. ... We were definitely not trying to do anything intentional here. "I don't feel it was an advantage that got us to our 10th-place position, but it is definitely something that can be frowned upon and not looked at as being compliant to the rules." Hamlin's transgression was an issue with the split on his Toyota's track bar, which exceeded the maximum 3.0 inches allowed by three-quarters of an inch. As a result, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who was scheduled to start second in the first of Thursday's two qualifying races, will start 24th in the second race instead. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were first and second Sunday to lock in the front row for the 500. Thursday's Budweiser Duel qualifying races (60 laps each) will determine positions 3-32 with the remainder of the field decided via qualifying times and owner points. RELATED: Who's in for the Daytona 500? Thursday's opening qualifying race is scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET start (FOX Sports 1). MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Denny Hamlin makes contact with Danica Patrick with 3 laps to go in the second Budweiser Duel at Daytona.
Denny Hamlin talks about coming up short of a championship in 2014 and being ready for a title run in 2015.
Can JGR driver build off last season's run to the Championship 4? RELATED: Full schedule of driver previews Team: Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Rank in final 2014 standings: Third Wins: One ( Talladega Superspeedway in May) Year in photos: Recap Hamlin's 2014 season Strides: Denny Hamlin carried momentum from his victory in the 2013 season finale into Speedweeks, winning the Sprint Unlimited exhibition and one of the two Budweiser Duel qualifying races ahead of the Daytona 500 . He finished just short of winning the Great American Race with a runner-up finish, but applied the No. 11 team's knack for restrictor-plate tracks to post his first career victory at Talladega Superspeedway , clinching a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Once in the postseason, Hamlin was able to advance through all three rounds of the Chase's new format, landing one of four title-eligible spots in the Sprint Cup Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . He led 50 laps but wound up seventh in the finale -- third among the championship quartet -- when a gamble on pit strategy unraveled in the late stages. "We gave it our best run," Hamlin said. "I mean, we put together really our best race all year, that final race, and gave those guys a run when we really hadn't had the speed to race with them all year. We gave it an effort and just came up short. Really proud of what we were able to accomplish this year, even though it was somewhat of a down year for our team." Setbacks: A freak eye injury in March forced Hamlin to seek medical care at Auto Club Speedway for the second straight year on race day. In 2013, a tangle with Joey Logano left Hamlin with a broken back that sidelined him for four races and part of a fifth; in 2014, a sliver of metal in his left eye forced him out, just an hour before the green flag. A medical exemption by NASCAR officials allowed him to remain Chase-eligible as long as he met all other criteria. The new Chase qualification rules also benefited Hamlin later in the season, but the No. 11 team still felt heavy repercussions in the process. After a post-race technical infraction was found at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , NASCAR issued stiff penalties by stripping the team of 75 points, suspending crew chief Darian Grubb for six races and fining him $125,000. Injuries and penalties notwithstanding, Hamlin said after the season that he drove most of the year facing a performance deficit compared to his front-running rivals. With Joe Gibbs Racing expanding to a four-team operation with the addition of Carl Edwards to the 2015 driver roster, Hamlin said he hopes the benefits of additional information sharing can help get the organization over the hump. "You've just got to get better in all aspects, and I think we've always just been kind of that next-tier team, realistically," Hamlin said. "We can compete for race wins, week in and week out, but the championships have escaped us through mechanical stuff, which we've worked out, or this year it was just our cars weren't fast enough to compete with those guys. However, we gave ourselves a great chance that last race to really sneak a championship away from 'em, but overall we've just got to get better in more areas, and I think going to the fourth team will allow us to do that." Quoteworthy: "A lot of ups and downs -- it's been a tough year to start the year missing a race. We didn't have the tools to win a lot of races throughout the year, but we got better and we got better when it really counted. It wasn't for a lack of effort. Everyone gave 100 percent to give me the best car they could this weekend. It just wasn't enough to beat those guys." -- Hamlin , moments after finishing seventh in the championship race at Homestead-Miami. What's next: Hamlin's three-year run with Grubb drew to a close after a dramatic shake-up to JGR's crew chief lineup in the offseason. The new assignments for 2015 mean that Hamlin will pair with Dave Rogers, who served as crew chief for Kyle Busch on the No. 18 Toyota team in Sprint Cup since 2010. What won't change is the team's ultra-fast pit crew, often credited as one of the sport's best. Rogers and Hamlin have worked together with success in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series (seven wins together), and Rogers' tenure with Busch produced 13 Sprint Cup wins over a five-year stretch. Hamlin's 2014 finish was the third near-miss in his quest for a career-defining breakthrough championship at NASCAR's highest level. Though times are changing at JGR with its expansion and juggling of crew chiefs, Hamlin brings high hopes that the new combination with Rogers will bear fruit in 2015. "He's well-regarded within our sport amongst other crew chiefs and I know what he can do," Hamlin said. "He's been with the No. 11 FedEx team before. This is his second time around, but me and him have never worked together in the Cup Series. I have driven his cars during tests and been really fast and comfortable with them, so I'm very excited about what we can do." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
An upset Danica Patrick talks with Denny Hamlin about their late accident after the second Budweiser Duel.