Hamlin racing through pain

OK, I have to admit I am totally shocked at what we are seeing out of Denny Hamlin It was assumed he would take this time to recuperate from his knee surgery and then be ready for the Chase. He has shown the racing world his heart.

We saw Joe Gibbs Racing come on strong at the end of last year. I am amazed at what Denny is accomplishing. It's worth noting that Jimmie Johnson hasn't won since NASCAR switched the teams to the spoiler. Conversely since the switch to the spoiler, you can't beat Joe Gibbs Racing.

My question now is Denny Hamlin going to be the lead challenger for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup title? You can't discount Jeff Gordon either. He is so close every week to being able to pull off the win but simply hasn't been able to close the deal.

As I have mentioned a lot of times, I know what Denny has gone through with his knee. I have had two knee surgeries. What is clear now to everyone is how tough Denny is. You really can't imagine having knee surgery and then going and sitting inside a race car. But Denny does that and wins races doing it.

Let's also not forget that those are not comfortable cars. If you were in a street car and hit a bump, you would feel it. So just try and put yourself behind the wheel of a stock car and run all those laps. He is like a machine working through the pain the way he does. I am in awe of what he is doing.

Compound that at Darlington where he did it two nights. Denny won the Friday night Nationwide race and then came right back and won the Saturday night Cup race. Give me a break. That's unbelievable. You have to admire a man that is doing all this under those conditions.

Just think about the mental edge it will give him once we get to the Chase following the Richmond race in September. As he gets stronger and the rehabilitation continues, he probably will be running even harder. That's going to be a big advantage for that team. It all ties together in a neat package.

Jimmie Johnson may be in a different position right now than we are used to seeing him in. Don't expect him to start waving the white flag just yet. I believe they will figure out what their cars need with this spoiler and more wins will be around the corner for the No. 48. If anyone wonders whether Jimmie may have lost focus and won't be there when it counts when they start the Chase, well, you will be wrong.

Jimmie will be just as dangerous as he has been in the last four years. He isn't unbeatable, but you can't ever count him out.