Joe Gibbs Racing announced today that Denny Hamlin will not compete in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway as originally planned. In Hamlin’s absence, Christopher Bell will pilot the No. 18 Sport Clips Toyota GR Supra in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200.
While Hamlin will not participate in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, he will be behind the wheel of the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry TRD for the Cup Series playoff opener Sunday evening. The Chesterfield, Virginia native enters the playoffs ranked sixth overall and is the defending winner of the Southern 500.
“I have had some soreness in my neck, back, and hips from the wreck on Sunday,” said Hamlin, who owns nine Darlington wins across NASCAR’s top-two series. “I feel like the right thing for me to do is to sit out the Xfinity Series race and put 100 percent of my focus on getting ready for this weekend’s Cup Series playoff race.”
Hamlin was collected in that Lap 137 melee and noted that it was as hard of a hit that he’s taken in a while.
“My whole body, literally my jaw hurts,” Hamlin said. “I feel like my jaw was one of those boxers who gets his whole face demolished. That was certainly the first real big one I’ve had in this car. Everything they’ve been telling us (about the impacts), all the other drivers, it’s true.”
Bell, who will also be competing in the Cup Series Playoffs, has made a pair of Xfinity Series starts at the “Track Too Tough to Tame” with a best finish of fourth in Aug. 2019. Since moving to the Cup Series, Bell has posted three top-15 finishes in six starts at Darlington, including a sixth-place finish earlier this year after qualifying third.
This weekend’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway is scheduled for Saturday, September 3, at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, and the NBC Sports App.