Richmond, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Denny Hamlin is expected to compete in this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series races at Richmond International Raceway after suffering neck spasms that forced him out of the car in the early going of last Sunday's event at Bristol.
Following a 90-minute rain delay at Bristol, Hamlin experienced his neck spasm on lap 12. The race was stopped for rain after 22 laps were completed, and the red flag was displayed for several hours. Hamlin's pain intensified during the delay, making him unable to continue driving his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the event. Erik Jones, a development driver for JGR, relieved Hamlin.
Jones drove Hamlin's car to a 26th-place finish, with Hamlin being credited with that position. It was the first time Jones, who is 18 years old, competed in a Sprint Cup race.
"Obviously, getting out of the car on Sunday was a very tough decision, and Erik did an admirable job under difficult circumstances," Hamlin said. "After treatment this week, I feel close to 100 percent, and I'm confident that I'll be good to go this weekend in Richmond. It's a great track for our team, and one that means a lot to me personally. Hopefully, we can go out there and compete for the win on Saturday night."
Hamlin won the March 29 race at Martinsville to all but assure himself a position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He finished third in last year's Chase point standings.
On Friday, Hamlin had the 10th fastest lap in the first practice session and then the fifth quickest lap in the second and final session for Saturday's 400-lap Sprint Cup race at Richmond. His hometown of Chesterfield, Virginia is nearby this 0.75-mile track.
Hamlin topped the speed charts in practice for Friday night's Xfinity Series race at Richmond. He is driving the No. 20 Toyota for JGR in that event.
In 17 Sprint Cup starts at Richmond, Hamlin has scored two wins, seven top- five finishes and nine top-10s as well as two poles. He won back-to-back fall races here from 2009-10.
Hamlin is currently 11th in the point standings. He started the season with a fourth-place finish in the Feb. 22 Daytona 500 after starting 42nd in that race. He finished 38th at Atlanta one week later and then fifth at Las Vegas before he placed 23rd at Phoenix and 28th in Fontana, California.
On Thursday, Hamlin hosted his eighth annual Late Model charity race, the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, at South Boston Speedway in South Boston Virginia. He competed in that event but engine failure put him behind the wall early, as he finished 31st in the 36-car field. Timothy Peters, a regular in the Camping World Truck Series, won the event.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, April 25. Race: Toyota Owners 400. Site: Richmond International Raceway. Track: 0.75-mile oval. Start time: 7 p.m. ET. Laps: 400. Miles: 300. 2014 Winner: Joey Logano. Television: FOX. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.