Denny Hamlin spoke candidly about Joey Logano and the injuries he sustained in a violent last-lap crash at Fontana, in an interview Wednesday on "The Dan Patrick Show."
When asked directly by Patrick whether he could "absolutely race today if he had to," Hamlin responded yes. He then went on to explain that ultimately the decision is not up to him and that he is not medically cleared by NASCAR due to the risk of further injury -- including paralysis.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver suffered an L1 compression fracture in his lower back when his car slammed the inside wall head-on after contact with Joey Logano as the two battled for the lead.
In the nearly nine-minute interview, Hamlin told Patrick he knew immediately that he had injured his spine and called the pain the worst he has ever experienced.
"When it happened I couldn't breathe, so I was struggling to get out of the car to get in a horizontal position so I could start breathing again," Hamlin said. "There was a little bit of a panic there for about a minute or so."
Hamlin was clear that he thought Logano deliberately drove into the side of his car saying, "If it wasn't intentional, it's the worst case of car control I've ever seen as a driver."
Although Hamlin stated he feels no sympathy for Logano, he also believes NASCAR did the right thing by issuing no fines or suspensions because in his opinion these types of incidents are the backbone of NASCAR.
"What they (NASCAR) encourage is the type of racing they saw there at the end," Hamlin said. "Not necessarily the two cars wrecking, but very close quarters at the end, the what was going to be a side-by-side finish -- all that is what NASCAR is about and what they hoped this new (Gen-6) car was going to bring.
"It was a crazy example of what NASCAR racing is capable of being at the end of these races."
Hamlin equated the finish at Fontana to the famous ending of the 1979 running of the Daytona 500, which featured Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrecking one another out of the lead on the last lap and then engaging in a fistfight on live television. That race is often viewed as the moment that launched NASCAR into the national sports spotlight.
"They probably smiled behind closed doors," Hamlin said referring to how NASCAR viewed the events of Fontana.
If he hadn't been injured Hamlin said he would have approached Logano afterward, but doesn't know what he would have done from there.
Going forward, the relationship between the former teammates "will be different" according to Hamlin and that it's going to take some time "for things to smooth over."
Despite the seriousness of his injury, which will keep him out of action for six weeks, Hamlin hasn't questioned whether to get back behind the wheel.
I don't think that is any question for me," Hamlin said. "It's going to kill me the next six weeks to watch. Especially knowing that I feel OK and feel good enough to drive but knowing there's reason that I'm not able to drive -- that's the frustrating part."