Hamlin not cleared for Richmond race

Denny Hamlin said on Wednesday that he will not be competing in this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at his home track of Richmond International Raceway.

Hamlin, who grew up just miles away from the 0.75-mile Richmond track in Chesterfield, Va., continues to recover from a compression fracture in his lower back. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver sustained the injury during an accident on the final lap of the March 24 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Last weekend at Kansas Speedway, Hamlin said his chances of returning to competition at Richmond were "50-50." He was evaluated by doctors and had a scan on his back earlier this week. Hamlin posted the news of his not racing at Richmond on his Twitter account. The 400-lap race there is scheduled for Saturday night.

"Unfortunately I won't be racing this weekend at Richmond," Hamlin tweeted. "It kills me to not be in the car for my team and sponsors but after long discussions with the doctors we have decided to wait on my return back to racing. Thanks to all of my fans who have sent encouraging messages over the last month. I'll be back in no time."

Hamlin is now hopeful his return will be in the May 5 race at Talladega Superspeedway. He has already missed three events -- Martinsville, Texas and Kansas.

Mark Martin drove his No. 11 Toyota to a 10th-place finish at Martinsville. Brian Vickers has been behind the wheel of the car for the past two races, finishing eighth at Texas and 31st at Kansas. Vickers is scheduled to drive it again at Richmond.

Hamlin held the 10th position in the point standings after Fontana, but has dropped to the 26th spot since then.

Two days after his Fontana accident, Hamlin was evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates in North Carolina. Petty determined that Hamlin wouldn't need surgery but would need time to properly heal, which was estimated around six weeks time.

Hamlin made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship for the seventh straight season in 2012, every year he has been a full-time competitor in the series.