Daytona 500: Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends Denny Hamlin’s celebration that followed Ryan Newman’s crash

NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr. is defending Denny Hamlin after many people criticized back-to-back Daytona 500 winner for celebrating while Ryan Newman’s condition after s serious crash on the final lap of the race was unknown. This year’s installment of The Great American Race w saw a terrifying accident near the finish line that left fans worried for Newman, who was able to leave the hospital less than 48 hours after the fiery wreck and was walking on his own. 

As Hamlin and second-place finisher Ryan Blaney crossed the finish line, the two drivers were seemingly unaware of what was happening behind them. Newman’s car had flipped, hit the wall and caught on fire, landing upside down on the track with medical professionals and safety personnel rushing to help him from the wreck. 

As a team of medics was attending to Newman, Hamlin was celebrating his victory with burnouts on the infield grass. He immediately apologized for the celebrations, explaining his radio had already been taken off and he had no idea the severity of Newman’s situation. 

Joe Gibbs Racing, which owns Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota, also apologized for celebrating, saying they too were in the dark about what was really going on. 

Despite the apologies, some have criticized Hamlin and his team, but Earnhardt thinks this is unfair. He commented that people are faster to become offended than ever before.

Earnhardt said on the Dale Jr. Download podcast:

“Denny goes and celebrates his win, and he caught a lot of flack for that. And I didn’t feel like that was deserving. I appreciate Joe Gibbs issuing an apology, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. But in this day and time, it certainly is for people get triggered so easily.”

He asked fans to put it in perspective and vouched for Hamlin’s explanation. 

“I’ve seen a lot of bad things in racing, and I’ve seen more than one death at a race track. I’ve been at race tracks where people have lost their lives and multiple times. So I feel like Denny, he won the race. He obviously did not see the severity of the crash in the mirror. He did not understand — how could he know that Corey LaJoie made contact with Newman’s car the way it did? “

He goes on to explain that the viewers had more insight than Hamlin did, which explains the celebration. 

None of us would have known, had we not seeing it on TV with the replays and so forth, right? We all had much more, much, much more information than Denny ever had. That’s all I think needs to be said about that,” Earnhardt said.

He is obviously no stranger to horrifying accidents on the track, with his father being involved in a fatal crash 19 years ago at Daytona. Earnhardt compared this situation to that one, and noted that winner Michael Waltrip celebrated despite what was happening. 

“But if people think back [to] dad’s accident in 2001, Michael celebrated. He was in Victory Lane with his entire team celebrating — the team owned by my dad — before they finally were getting the right information,” he said. “And no one ever in that moment went, ‘Oh, how dare Michael be celebrating until we figure out what’s going on with Earnhardt?’ So it’s a different time, and people react differently to those type of situations. I think they’re being overly critical of Denny and his team.

The situation was thankfully not worse, and Newman has been able to make great strides each day. 

Earnhardt Jr. says it would have been nice if someone could have told Hamlin what was going on, but there is no one person to blame. 

“It’s unfortunate that someone in that camp did not get to Denny quicker and tell him to pause and hold on his celebration. It didn’t happen, and it’s unfortunate, but it’s not anyone was right or wrong,” he said. “It’s just how it played out. And we’ve seen it happen before and we’ve been much less critical in other situations that were extremely similar.”

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