HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Rivalries mean very little in times of crisis, as Denny Hamlin has learned by the outpouring of support he’s received since he was injured in a last-lap crash at California.
Between 15 and 20 drivers have contacted Hamlin since he fractured a vertebra in his lower back in the March 24 crash. None have been as persistent as new Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.
“Matt’s probably texted me 50 times,” Hamlin said Wednesday. “Literally every day and every few hours checking on me. `What’s the update for this? Or that?’ To me, that’s pretty cool that you have somebody who really does care.”
Kenseth joined JGR in December, so it’s not like he and Hamlin have a lengthy relationship. But they occasionally talked at the track and Hamlin, who is eight years younger, always admired Kenseth from afar.
It stemmed from Kenseth’s 1998 debut at Dover as a replacement driver for Bill Elliott, who was Hamlin’s childhood hero.
“Matt is a guy that I looked up to really growing up _ similar to Bill Elliott,” Hamlin said. “The reason I really like Matt is that back in the day he subbed for Bill Elliott during the Dover race so I kind of had an attachment to him that way. I admire the way he drives obviously. I think he’s very similar to Jimmie Johnson and just stays clean most of the time. Just does a really good job and he’s very underrated.”
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