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Davey Hamilton Jr. rules out SST return

In a perfect world, Davey Hamilton Jr. would be preparing to race for the Stadium Super Trucks championship as the 2023 season approaches. Unfortunately, spinal injuries have made even a return of any sort impossible.

Hamilton was the featured guest in the latest episode of the ThrillCast, a podcast hosted by SST veteran Bill Hynes, that went live Thursday. When asked about potentially coming back, Hamilton quickly shot down any possibility due to a history of injuries directly related to the impacts that the trucks record upon landing after ramps.

Much of the interview surrounded the risks that come with racing, especially in open-wheel racing where Hamilton’s father and SST alumnus Davey Sr. suffered serious leg injuries in a 2001 crash that halted his career for years. The younger Hamilton also sustained injuries of his own, recalling feeling back pain following his SST debut at the 2017 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg which culminated in a T4 spinal fracture after crashing in the King of the Wing sprint car series at Irwindale Speedway.

Hamilton continued to race in SST and what is now Indy NXT on a part-time basis in 2018 before personal matters put his career on pause. He committed to the full SST schedule in 2022 but had to back out after re-aggravating the spinal injury in the opener at Long Beach, where he finished eighth in both races. Since then, he has continued racing in pavement sprint cars and scored the most wins among all drivers in the discipline in 2022, including the Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series championship and a win streak beginning that October which still continues today.

For 2023, he will part-time in the Must See Racing Sprint Series.

“There’s just no chance,” Hamilton told Hynes. “I love Stadium Super Truck racing. I would do it full time, I want to win a race one day, but… 2017 I broke my back at St. Pete and we didn’t know I broke my back. You know how these trucks, when you land, if you land wrong, it shoots up your spine and I just landed wrong and I continued racing all year with back pain and I just never went and seen a doctor. Fortunately and not fortunately, I got in a really bad sprint car wreck later on in the year, and I broke a rib, had a concussion, and they found out that my T4, my spine was fractured but it wasn’t new. […] We determined it was from St. Pete.

“This past year, racing at Long Beach in the trucks, same freaking thing. Landed wrong and instantly was the exact same pain. Went to the doctors—the IndyCar doctors, they’re the best in the world, I think—and they basically said if you take another hit like that, it could be bad news for your career. You may not be racing again, if not walking again. I had to look at that as, ‘Okay, no more jumping for me. Count me out on that. No more jumping, no more compression.'”

Hynes empathised as he recalled his maiden series start at Toronto in 2014 when a landing affected his tailbone to the point where he purchased a hemorrhoid foam cushion to pad his seating for the jumps, explaining that the cushion absorbed the landing’s energy instead of sending it his spine. Hamilton pitched moulded seats akin to open-wheel cars to reduce the risks, though Hynes noted such seats are harder and suggested a “hybrid mould” with foam that would “hug” the driver to keep them still for sudden movements.

Both also discussed cases of SST driver injuries such as Matt Mingay‘s near-fatal accident at Detroit in 2016 and 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser calling off his 2013 Toronto entry after a poor landing caused him to hurt his back; incidentally, he was replaced by Davey Hamilton Sr. for the weekend.

“People are always coming up to me like, ‘Man, does it hurt?’ or ‘Those things look like you’re just landing on pillows and it’s so soft,’ and I’m like, ‘You guys don’t understand. You get thrown around,'” Hamilton quipped.

The 2023 SST season begins at Long Beach on 14–16 April.

Full ThrillCast episode on YouTube

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