Denny Hamlin used his media availabilty Friday at Martinsville to dispute any rumors spreading about his absence from Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway.
Hamlin missed the race after the team says doctors found a piece of metal in his eye on Sunday morning. He felt an irritation in his eye on Saturday and went to the hospital before Sunday's race after doctors at the ACS infield care center couldn't find anything in his eye.
"People who thing negatively of me or think that we side-stepped some sort of drug test or something is ridiculous," Hamlin said. "I’m in one of the top-three cars in NASCAR, I would have to be an absolute moron – moron to risk that. I have a daughter that I have to provide for a really long time. For people to question who I am inside and outside the race car, I’ve never done anything to even put that in question. I go to Bobcats games, I got out and hang out with friends out in public -- I don’t stay tucked in my motorhome, I don’t stay tucked into my house, it’s not what I like to do. Because I’m out there a little bit more people think I got out and I party. I got a wakeup call because I don’t drink at all hardly, ever. I’ve never done drugs, ever. I’m as clean as they come. I don’t know why people question who I am outside the race track. I worked too hard to get here for one to throw it all away. If anyone has any questions about that, they can ask me directly."
Earlier in the week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was worried about the perception for NASCAR and for Hamlin because there hadn't been a public timeline of what happened over the weekend. The following day, Joe Gibbs Racing released a statement saying Hamlin was cleared to race at Martinsville and what transpired at California.
Unless we've missed something, we're not sure where the rumors Hamlin referenced Friday came from. But he apparently felt them serious enough to address.
"People who assume, people like that. I’ll tell you, but it bothers me that my character is questioned. People think that there’s some kind of conspiracy because like I said, I worked too hard to get here and it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was five years old. There’s not one thing in the world that I would do to switch positions with anyone in the world because I just feel that lucky. I’m done justifying and defending myself on those things – I’m not going to let those people drag me down. It’s just frustrating – just because I’m out there a little bit more in the public that bugs me because I’m a human being and I like doing fun things. If people think I have to go out and I have to drink to have fun, they’re wrong and they haven’t hung out with me because I don’t. It just bothers me because there’s people that like to make rumors and of course within our NASCAR community rumors become truth when enough people say it. I’m done.”
Well, no, he wasn't done. He had one more comment before he left the media center. We're not going to say it was a Ruthian call of his shot, but Martinsville is one of his best tracks. And Hamlin obviously likes his chances.
“I’m going to win (the race) this weekend, I promise,” Hamlin said.