Illness sidelines Hamlin in Fontana

HUNTERSVILLE – Denny Hamlin missed the Auto Club 400 on March 23 due to a sinus infection that affected his vision.

The Sprint Cup veteran, who was sidelined for four races last year because of a back injury, had qualified his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 13th for the race. Hamlin had trouble seeing out of his left eye due to the infection, so he went to Auto Club Speedway’s infield care center, crew chief Darian Grubb told Motor Racing Network.

Since doctors didn’t clear Hamlin to race, JGR Nationwide Series driver Sam Hornish Jr. filled in for him. Hornish, making his first NASCAR start since November 2013 and his first ever in a Toyota car, finished 17th.

Hamlin, per a JGR statement, will be evaluated in Charlotte before a decision is made on whether he can compete March 30 at Martinsville Speedway. Ranked 11th in points after missing the race, Hamlin is still eligible to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup because he qualified his car.

Hamlin doesn’t have a win yet this season, but he captured non-points victories in the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duels at Daytona in February.


Win boosts Busch in standings

FONTANA, Calf. – Kyle Busch won the 29th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of his career by claiming the Auto Club 400 on March 23 at Auto Club Speedway.

Busch ranks seventh in the standings, trailing series leader Carl Edwards by 28 points.

Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, led 19 laps and finished fourth. Kenseth moved up to fifth place in the standings. He trails Edwards by seven points.


Nemechek prepares for 2014 debut

DAVIDSON – Sixteen-year-old John Hunter Nemechek, a Davidson Day student, will make his third career Camping World Truck Series start March 29 at Martinsville Speedway.

Nemechek, the son of Sprint Cup driver Joe Nemechek and the nephew of the late John Nemechek, also a Truck Series racer, made two starts in 2013.

The Mooresville native will drive the No. 8 Toyota in the Kroger 250. He’ll make additional starts this season in races that Joe Nemechek does not enter.


Lake-area drivers invited to showdown

HUNTERSVILLE – Denny Hamlin’s annual Short Track Showdown will have some Lake Norman flavor this year.

The event, held April 24 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, pits Sprint Cup regulars including Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and David Ragan against Late Model stock-car racers.

Gray Gaulding, a 16-year-old K&N Pro Series East driver based in Statesville, was one of the fortunate few to receive an invite to the race. Gaulding will make his Camping World Truck Series debut March 29 at Martinsville Speedway, driving the No. 20 Toyota for Bob Newberry.

Denver resident Matt McCall, a Sprint Cup engineer and successful short-track driver, was named as one of 15 alternates for the race, which benefits the Denny Hamlin Foundation.

Mooresville-based JR Motorsports also earned an invite, when Late Model driver Josh Berry was named as an alternate. Alternate drivers are eligible to race if one of the invited drivers can’t participate.