- Associated Press - Friday, October 19, 2012

KANSAS CITY, KAN. (AP) - Denny Hamlin feels “100 percent and good to go” after a hard crash at Kansas Speedway.

The championship contender was back in the car Friday, a day after hitting the wall at 202 mph during testing on the repaved surface, and qualified ninth at 190.718 mph for Sunday’s race.

Hamlin trails Chase leader Brad Keselowski by 15 points, and is seven back of Jimmie Johnson, who will roll off two spots ahead of him. Keselowski will start the race 25th.

Hamlin was only a few laps into Thursday’s test session when he crashed entering Turn 1. He was examined at the infield care center despite driving back to the garage, and then had another series of evaluations an hour later, before he was finally cleared to resume testing.

“I feel 100 percent today. Thought I was good yesterday, and obviously I felt better with every hour,” Hamlin said. “It’s just business as usual for the weekend.”

It’s hardly been business as usual when it comes to driver safety.

The issue has been thrust into the spotlight after Dale Earnhardt Jr. took himself out of his car following two concussions in a six-week span. The first of the concussions occurred during tire testing at Kansas Speedway and went unreported. The second happened two weeks ago at Talladega.

Hamlin admitted that he might not have made the same choice.

“There’s no doubt about it that you would do whatever it took to stay in your car if you’re in the middle of a championship battle,” he said, “but one thing you can’t hide is the signs that you are not right. You can say you’re good and everything, but if you don’t pass the tests that they put out there for you, then you’re not going to get the opportunity to be in your car.”

That very issue has led to speculation that some drivers may attempt to manipulate the results of a base line test so that it’s easier to pass even if they sustain a concussion.

“I’m going to have a hell of a time passing a base-line test anyway,” quipped Clint Bowyer, who enters the weekend fourth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings.

Asked what it would take to get Bowyer out of the car, he replied, “Maybe a bullet.”

“If they could patch that up then I may go on,” Bowyer added. “You don’t get this opportunity in life very often. You’ve worked your whole year _ this is a year’s worth of work that goes into these last five races. It would be hard to think about pulling yourself out.”

Danica Patrick said she doesn’t think most drivers would “sandbag” a base line test for the simple reason that makes them successful on the track: their competitiveness.

“I just had to do as well as possible because of my personality,” she said. “The other side of that is if you choose to sandbag and not perform as well on the original test so you can do better later, it’s your own fault. It’s your life.”

While the safety of the driver is of paramount importance, Bowyer said, Earnhardt’s case also demonstrates how the decision to step out of the car can become quite complex.

“Look at the sponsors, the money, the business that count on him to be healthy. It goes way farther than just being competitive and what you see on Sunday,” Bowyer said. “There’s a lot of people and lives that depend on him.”

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