Despite tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a basketball game Tuesday night, Denny Hamlin was back in a race car at Richmond International Raceway Friday and will finish out the season before getting surgery.
The Virginia native expressed optimism that he would be able to repeat last year's results, when he qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"I really don't feel like this will set us back at all. ... If anything it just juices you up that extra 10 percent to make sure that you do your job 110 percent and I think that I'll go out there and feeling like I need to go out there and prove that I am 100 percent," said Hamlin, who was 18th and 42nd in the day's two practice sessions. "I'll try to give it all I got. I think that no doubt there's nothing or no injury that's going to keep me from what I want to do at the end of the year."
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The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said that he hit a game-tying shot during Tuesday's basketball game, then suffered the injury in overtime.
Hamlin suffered a similar injury to his left knee in 2010.
"You just don't know how the body is going to react to a second one," said Hamlin, who has posted three consecutive top-five finishes and is eighth in points. "I thought the smart thing to do was to wait until after the season to have surgery."
In addition to the two knee injuries, Hamlin missed four races in 2013 with a broken back suffered in a last-lap crash with Joey Logano at Auto Club Speedway. A year later at the same track, he missed the ACS race when he got a piece of metal in his eye. Earlier this year, he got out of his car at Bristol Motor Speedway when he suffered neck cramps during a lengthy rain delay.
"I think it's part of just being active, you have accidents," said Hamlin. "There's a lot of guys that do a lot of active things on Saturdays that they get hurt and it doesn't necessarily get wrote about because they try to hide it, but I feel like the things I do are less risk. I've just had a real stroke of bad luck when it comes to some of the injuries that I've had."
Hamlin said Friday that he had less pain in the car then he did when he suffered his first knee injury in 2010. "Obviously, the swelling is the biggest issue," said Hamlin. "It hurts mobility and it kind of shuts down my quad, so there's challenges there. But, in the car we ran 15 or 20 consecutive laps which isn't a whole lot but it was fine then."