NASCAR drivers find transition to Next Gen car painful in crashes

AP photo by Dow Graham / Chris Buescher (17), Daniel Suarez (99), Denny Hamlin (11), Justin Haley (31), Kevin Harvick (4), Ty Dillon (42), Aric Almirola (10) and others are involved in a crash between the first two turns at Daytona International Speedway during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The jolts are more jarring, the impacts feel harder and the pain hangs on longer for NASCAR drivers in the first season of the Next Gen car.

Stories of sore backs, headaches and damaged ribs that don't heal as quickly as they did in the past are more common heading into the opening race of the Cup Series playoffs Sunday at South Carolina's Darlington Raceway.

Just ask Joe Gibbs Racing veteran Denny Hamlin, part of a massive wreck late in last weekend's regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway. He has already pulled out of the second-tier Xfinity Series race Saturday at Darlington due to continuing soreness in his neck, ribs and back.

"It feels like I got beat up in a bar and someone was kicking me in the ribs while I was on the ground," Hamlin said Thursday.