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Why Are Drivers Hiding So Many Injuries?

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

This offseason, there have been not one, not two, but three drivers who have disclosed injuries they raced with in the 2023 season. Why are drivers hiding these and choosing to race with these injuries?

The Undisclosed Injuries

Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Christopher Bell all had different injuries they waited until after the season to disclose. Here are each driver’s specific injuries

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott had surgery on his shoulder early in the offseason for an undisclosed injury. This would probably feel inconsequential, but, Elliott also had another injury in 2023. A broken leg caused Elliott to miss 6 races early in the season, so it does call into question how healthy Elliott really was in 2023.

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin was the second driver to disclose an injury, as he had surgery on his shoulder shortly after Elliott. However, Hamlin disclosed during a NASCAR Champions Week media session in Nashville that the healing from the surgery is taking longer than he expected. As a result, his availability in the season-opening Clash at the Coliseum is potentially in jeopardy.

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell disclosed his injury, a broken finger to the media on the red carpet of the NASCAR Awards. Now, his was a non-racing injury as he says he sustained it by trying to start a pull-start engine the week of the regular season finale at Daytona.

Why Would Drivers Race Through These Injuries?

Simply put, these injuries do not seem to hamper driver performance too much. Christopher Bell broke his finger the week of the regular season finale, but he was still good enough during the Playoffs to make the Championship 4. Denny Hamlin made the Round of 8 despite a shoulder injury. Chase Elliott’s performance dipped, but, that can also be credited to his broken leg and missing 6 races.

Hamlin has had plenty of injuries in the past, but, his performance in the car did not waver for his relatively minor ones. In 2010 he tore his ACL, and he went on to win a career-high 8 races. He tore his labrum in 2019 and made the Championship 4. Missing the Clash would seem to be more of a result of the surgery than the injury itself.

Why would a driver disclose such an injury to the media if it’s not hampering their performance on the race track? At that point, it becomes another question to answer during media availability and potentially negative publicity surrounding a driver’s health.

It’s not uncommon for athletes to play through major injuries in big events either. In NASCAR, drivers cannot afford to miss many races because every race pays points, and, missing multiple races makes it very difficult to make the Playoffs. Chase Elliott fell victim to this in 2023. As a result, if a driver can race through some bumps and bruises, they will.

Ultimately, these injuries did not seem to affect driver performance that much. As a result, these drivers drove through it. They may be interesting stories to watch as the off-season goes on, however.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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