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Denny Hamlin has watched both drivers from his 23XI Racing team experience a big impact in the Next Gen car. Bubba Wallace has been outspoken about the intensity of his multiple impacts. Conversely, Kurt Busch was quiet about his impact during qualifying at Pocono, but his absence from the last six races and a still undetermined return date has spoken volumes.

This past weekend, the three-time Daytona 500 winner finally had the full-Next Gen car experience, not in a good way. After hearing about so many drivers enduring harder-than-usual impacts in the new car throughout the season, the 41-year-old felt the full effect of just such a crash on Sunday. Both his immediate reaction, which was painful and disturbing to hear over the team radio, and his postrace comments were all just confirmation of what all the other drivers have said this year about the car and the takeaway is — NASCAR’s got a problem.  

Denny Hamlin involved in his first big hit of season

Denny Hamlin found himself in a familiar position on Sunday at Daytona, running up front toward the end of the race. That’s how he’s collected three Harley J. Earl Trophies in the last seven years. 

With 23 laps and the No. 11 leading the field, it appeared the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was the man to beat. Then, Mother Nature intervened and produced a rain-slicked track in Turns 1 and 2 that resulted in a massive accident, with Hamlin the first of multiple cars that inexplicably made hard right turns and violently slammed into the outside wall. 

“You OK?” Chris Lambert, the spotter for the No. 11 team, asked the driver over the team radio.

“Aaaaah,” Hamlin responded with a painful groan.

“You OK? Catch your breath. Talk to me when you can,” the spotter said.

“Aaaah, f****** hurt,” the driver said, winded.  

“Take deep breaths here. Deep breaths here. Don’t do nothing in a hurry,” Lambert told him.

The conversation continued for several moments between Lambert and crew chief Chris Gabehart, with both agreeing that they were not happy that the accident had been caused by rain and hurt their driver.

Hamlin talks about feeling like he was punched by a boxer

After a visit to the infield care center, Hamlin met with reporters and talked through his perspective on the crash, from the wet track setting off the accident to slamming into the outside wall. One reporter asked if his head had hit something because Gabehart had been inspecting his helmet. 

“No, just my whole body,” he said. “Literally, my jaw hurts. I feel like my jaw was one of those boxers that just 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, all the other drivers, is true. It’s legit.”

Bubba Wallace gets upset over radio about his big hit in race

Bubba Wallace spins
Bubba Wallace spins into the infield grass after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on August 28, 2022. | Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

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Hamlin wasn’t the only Toyota in the big crash. Bubba Wallace was also involved. Interestingly, the driver who’s already been vocal about his intense hits at Atlanta and Talladega wasn’t one of the cars that went hard right into the fence. Instead, the No. 23 turned left to avoid the cars wrecking up higher on the track. 

Unfortunately, with so many cars going so many different directions, Wallace’s car took a couple of blows in the rear by Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The driver was not happy about the intensity of those impacts and made it clear over the team radio.

“NASCAR these cars f****** suck when you get hit in the rear,” he angrily said. “Never thought I’d get the breath knocked out of me getting hit in the rear. What a f****** joke we drive.”

This “joke” of a car is quickly becoming a serious matter. Multiple drivers in recent months have spoken out about the more intense hits in the car. Hamlin added his name to the list on Sunday. Kurt Busch has been sidelined for more than a month due to a concussion from an impact. Something is not right and fans can only hope NASCAR is feverishly working behind the scenes to resolve this issue before someone else gets hurt or even worse, killed.

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